April 12, 2014, 4:47 pm
Singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester passed away yesterday of bladder cancer. He was 69.
Winchester wasn’t a household name, but was a songwriter’s songwriter with a sweet voice. Consider these artists who have recorded Winchester’s songs over the years: Lyle Lovett, Tim Hardin, Iain Matthews, Joan Baez, The Everly Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, Lucinda Williams, Allen Touissant, and even The Weather Girls.
Born in Louisiana and raised in Memphis, Winchester refused to report to the Draft Board and made his way to Montreal in 1967. He would not return to the U.S. for nearly a decade until President Carter gave amnesty to those who evaded the draft. Winchester would remain based in Quebec until moving to Virginia in 2002. Winchester was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011, but would recover. However, the cancer would return earlier this year and his health would rapidly decline thereafter.
Some of his most noted songs include “Biloxi,” “Yankee Lady,” “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Mississipi You’re On My Mind,” and “Snow” (which was co-written with Robbie Robertson of The Band).
Winchester was also a compelling live performer (I regret not having seen him perform). Here he is back in 1977 singing a capella on The Midnight Specialwith Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris. In 2009, Winchester made Elvis Costello’s jaw drop and put Neko Case in tears while singing “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding” from Love Filling Station which turned out to be his final studio album.