Folk singer Glenn Yarbrough passed away of complications of dementia on Thursday. He was 86.
Yarbrough was drawn to folk music in 1950 when Woody Guthrie performed at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. Somehow, Guthrie ended up in Yarbrough’s room where he continued to play his music late into the night for Yarbrough and his roommate. That roommate was none other than Jac Holzman who would start Elektra Records out of that very dorm room. To have been a fly on the wall that night.
A decade later, Holzman would sign Yarbrough as part of The Limeliters, a trio which consisted of Yarbrough, Alex Hassilev and Lou Gottlieb. Often compared to The Kingston Trio, the Limeliters would record several best selling albums (with RCA Victor) and were a popular concert attraction in the early ’60’s.
If you were a regular viewer of Breaking Bad then you probably heard “Take My True Love By Her Hand”.
But Yarbrough didn’t care much for the limelight and left the group in 1963. Yarbrough preferred life on the water and spent a better part of the next half century at sea. He built boats and sailed them around the world.
Yarbrough would return to performing (both solo and with The Limeliters) and recording albums when he needed money to finance his sailing expeditions. In 1965, he would record what became his signature song, “Baby the Rain Must Fall”. Composed by Elmer Bernstein and Ernie Sheldon, it was recorded for the movie of the same name starring Lee Remick and Steve McQueen.
Yarbrough would continue performing and recording sporadically until 2010 when he voice began to deteriorate. He underwent throat surgery, but would suffer a heart attack in the recovery room and things would never be the same as dementia would soon follow.
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien should be amused at Yarbrough’s interpretation of “The Greatest Adventure of Them All” which he recorded for animated version of The Hobbit which aired on NBC in November 1977. The song fits his tenor voice like a glove.