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John Renbourn

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John Renbourn
John Renbourn on the Custom House Square stage at New Bedford Summerfest 2005. P
hoto by Thom C.
Background information
8 August 1944
Marylebone, London, England
26 March 2015 (aged 70)
Hawick, Scotland
Genres Folk, folk baroque, folk rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Acoustic guitar, sitar
Years active
1961 2015
Associated acts Pentangle,
The John Renbourn Group,
Ship of Fools
John Renbourn (8 August 1944 26 March 2015) was an English guitarist and songwri
ter. He was possibly best known for his collaboration with guitarist Bert Jansch
as well as his work with the folk group Pentangle, although he maintained a sol
o career before, during and after that band's existence (1967 1973).[1]
While most commonly labelled a folk musician, Renbourn's musical tastes and inte
rests took in early music, classical music, jazz, blues and world music. His mos
t influential album, Sir John Alot (1968), featured his take on tunes from the M
edieval era.
Contents [hide]
Solo albums
Live albums
External links
John Renbourn studied classical guitar at school and it was during this period t
hat he was introduced to Early Music. In the 1950s, along with many others, he w
as greatly influenced by the musical craze of "Skiffle" and this eventually led
him to explore the work of artists such as Lead Belly, Josh White and Big Bill B
In the 1960s the new craze in popular music was Rhythm and Blues, also the impac
t of Davey Graham was being felt. In 1961 Renbourn toured the South West with Ma
c MacLeod and repeated the tour in 1963.On returning from the South West Renbour
n and MacLeod recorded a demo tape together. Renbourn briefly played in an R&B b
and while studying at the Kingston College of Art in London. Although the Britis
h "Folk Revival" was underway, most folk clubs were biased towards traditional,
unaccompanied folk songs, and guitar players were not always welcome. However, t
he Roundhouse in London had a more tolerant attitude and here, John Renbourn joi
ned blues and gospel singer Dorris Henderson, playing backing guitar and recordi

ng two albums with her.

Possibly the best known London venue for contemporary folk music in the early 19
60s was "Les Cousins" on Greek Street, Soho, which became the main meeting place
for guitar players and contemporary singer-songwriters from Britain and America
. Around 1963, Renbourn teamed up with guitarist Bert Jansch who had moved to Lo
ndon from Edinburgh, and together they developed an intricate duet style that be
came known as "folk baroque". Their album Bert and John is a fine example of the
ir playing.
Renbourn released several albums on the Transatlantic label during the 1960s. Tw
o of them, Sir John Alot and Lady and the Unicorn, sum up Renbourn's playing sty
le and material from this period. Sir John Alot has a mixture of jazz/blues/folk
playing alongside a more classical/early music style. Lady and the Unicorn is h
eavily influenced by Renbourn's interest in early music.
At around this time, Renbourn also started playing and recording with Jacqui McS
hee who sang traditional English folk songs, and with American fiddler Sue Drahe
im. Together with Bert Jansch, bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox, the
y went on to form Pentangle. The group became very successful, touring America i
n 1968, playing at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Folk Festival.
Renbourn went on to record more solo albums in the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the
music is based on traditional material with a Celtic influence, interwoven with
other styles. He also collaborated with American guitarist Stefan Grossman in th
e late 1970s, recording two albums with him, which at times recall his folk baro
que days with Bert Jansch.
In the mid-1980s Renbourn went back to the university to earn a degree in compos
ition at Dartington College of Arts. Subsequently he focused mainly on writing c
lassical music, while still performing in folk settings. He also added acoustic
guitars for the movie soundtrack Scream for Help, a studio project with his neig
hbour John Paul Jones.
In 1988, Renbourn briefly formed a group called Ship of Fools with Tony Roberts
(flute), Maggie Boyle (lyrics, misc. instruments) and Steve Tilston (guitar). Th
ey recorded one eponymous album together. After practising by mailing tapes to e
ach other in England, they held their first concert, comprising two sold-out sho
ws, at Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club Theater. Regrettably, the soundboard bootleg
tape was not saved due to a dispute between the concert promoter and the audio
Renbourn continued to record and tour. He toured the USA with Archie Fisher. In
2005 he toured Japan (his fifth tour of that country) with Tokio Uchida and Wood
y Mann. In 2006 he played at number of venues in England, including the Green Ma
n Festival in Wales and appearances with Robin Williamson and with Jacqui McShee
. In the same year, he was working on a new solo album and collaborated with Cli
ve Carroll on the score for the film Driving Lessons, directed by Jeremy Brock.
In 2011 he released Palermo Snow, a collection of instrumental guitar solos also
featuring clarinetist Dick Lee. The title track is a complex mix of classical,
folk, jazz and blues. This piece is a departure, in that there is a classical co
re, with other styles intermixing, rather than the core style being blues, folk
or jazz.
Since 2012 he had toured with Wizz Jones, playing a mixture of solo and duo mate
rial. Renbourn previously appeared on Jones's album "Lucky the Man" (2001) with
other former members of Pentangle.
Renbourn died on 26 March 2015 from a heart attack at his home in Hawick in the

Scottish Borders, aged 70.[2][3]