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©2019 Jimbo Kennedy

Jimbo Kennedy is an Oregon-based guitarist and author.

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John Fahey's Guitar Playing is More Than "Cosmic Sentimentalism"

March 20, 2019

It is unwise to say too much about "Blind Joe Death." His fans are so well-informed about his brand of eccentricity, it is better to have a conversation. After all, how do you define an eccentric? This is just a start.



John Fahey's memory lives at the edge of an abyss. He revolutionized the guitar, like Hendrix after him. He started the first artist-owned music label, a tremendous achievement. He released numerous albums, and even a few books. Draped in stoicism, he still managed to subtly evoke both mischief and mastery. A quiet icon of the sixties, John Fahey hilariously dismissed much of his work as "cosmic sentimentalism."



John loved Delta Blues, Folk, and many varieties of early recorded music. He considered himself an avid collector. His blues-inspired, collector-mocking nickname, "Blind Joe Death," reflects his simultaneously serious and joking attitude. But if you want to find out how serious he took collecting, read his UCLA Master's thesis on Delta Blues legend Charley Patton. The video above is John's adaptation of an old tune that has gone by the name of Vestapol (or Siege of Sebastopol) and Spanish Fandango.



"In Search of Blind Joe Death," a documentary of John's life, appeared in 2013. And while it answers many questions, it leaves a lot of material untouched. To get a view of John's devoted fanbase, read the movie's encyclopedic comment section! Or... One of his devoted fans, Nick Schillace, composed a wonderful thesis on John, which I highly recommend you read instead.


When asked what he would suggest to budding students of the guitar, John replied, "Play what you feel. Play what you like. Don't worry about what other people play. Play what you feel." Though he often composed very concise pieces, here is a long video of John playing slide guitar with immense feeling. Enjoy.



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