Jesse Winchester

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For the Canadian ice hockey player, see Jesse Winchester (ice hockey).
Jesse Winchester
Jesse Winchester Smile JazzFest 2011.jpg
Winchester in 2011
Background information
Birth name James Ridout Winchester
Born (1944-05-17)May 17, 1944
Bossier City, Louisiana, U.S.
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Died April 11, 2014(2014-04-11) (aged 69)
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
Genres Country, country rock, folk
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active Circa 1961 – 2014 (his death)
Labels Appleseed, Bearsville, Stony Plain, Ampex, Victor, Sugar Hill, Great Big Island, Wounded Bird, Blue Plate
Website jessewinchester.com

James Ridout "Jesse" Winchester (May 17, 1944 – April 11, 2014) was an American-Canadian musician and songwriter. He was born and raised in the southern United States. Opposed to the Vietnam War, he moved to Canada in 1967 to avoid military service and began his career as a solo artist. His highest-charting recordings were of his own songs, "Yankee Lady" in 1970 and "Say What" in 1981. He became a Canadian citizen in 1973, gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977 and resettled there in 2002.[1]

Winchester was best known as a songwriter. His works were recorded by many notable artists, including Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, the Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris.[2][3] A number of these recordings achieved positions on various charts.[4]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field, near Bossier City, Louisiana, and raised in northern Mississippi and in Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service.[5] "I was so offended by someone's coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth," he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977.[6]

Winchester began playing guitar in bands while still in high school. He played in Germany during college study abroad and after graduation. Upon arriving in Quebec in 1967, he joined a local band, Les Astronautes. He also began writing songs, which he performed as a solo artist at the Montreal Folk Workshop and at coffeehouses throughout eastern Canada, adding impetus to a revival in folk music that was taking place across Canada. Under the auspices of the Band's Robbie Robertson, another Canadian, Winchester began his recording career in 1970 with a self-titled album released on the Ampex label.[7]

Career[edit]

Winchester released several albums during the 1970s. Because of his status as a draft resister, he was unable to tour in the United States, and he became recognized primarily as a songwriter. His best-known songs include "Yankee Lady", "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz", "Mississippi, You're on My Mind", "A Showman's Life", and "Biloxi".[5] These and others have been recorded by numerous artists.

Winchester at the 2011 Blue Highways festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands

In 1974, Winchester often performed at the Hotel Le Chatelet in Morin Heights, Quebec, run by several expatriate Tennesseans who had come to Canada in 1972. David "Butch" McDade and Jeff "Stick" Davis moved to Quebec to become part of Jesse Winchester and the Rhythm Aces. Winchester was the first to record the songs "Third Rate Romance" and "The End Is Not in Sight", both written by Russell Smith. Smith traveled to Montreal to assist in the recording of the album Learn to Love It at Studio Six. Smith, Davis and McDade later were original members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces.[citation needed]

Upon his election in 1976, President Jimmy Carter declared he would grant amnesty to draft evaders, except those who had deserted or had become citizens of another country. Winchester had by then become a Canadian citizen, but Barry Bozeman, his manager at the time, convinced Carter on Winchester's behalf to broaden the amnesty.[citation needed]

Winchester's first appearance in the U.S. was a sold-out performance in Burlington, Vermont, on April 21, 1977. Rolling Stone covered the event, describing Winchester as "the greatest voice of the decade".[citation needed]

"I'm Gonna Miss You, Girl", written by Winchester, was recorded by American country music artist Michael Martin Murphey and released in October 1987 as the lead single from the album River of Time. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and at number 4 on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. The version recorded by Murphy omits the somewhat sadder second part of the song. Winchester's version is on his album Love Filling Station.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

Winchester was nominated for the Best Country Male Vocalist award at the Juno Awards of 1990. In 2002, he moved back to the United States, settling in Virginia. That year, his song "Step by Step", from the album Let the Rough Side Drag, was used as background music for the montage that ended the first season of the television program The Wire.[8] He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2007.[9] Winchester continued to record and perform throughout the United States and Canada, releasing his tenth studio album, Love Filling Station, in 2009.[10]

In 2011, Winchester was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and underwent treatment for the next couple of months. He was later given a clean bill of health from his doctor and resumed touring.[11] Quiet About It, a tribute record to Winchester, was released in 2012, featuring James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams and Rosanne Cash.

In April 2014, it was revealed that Winchester was "gravely ill" and receiving hospice care at his home, in Charlottesville, Virginia.[12] He died there on the morning of April 11, 2014, aged 69, from bladder cancer.[13][14][15][16]

Winchester’s final CD, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, was released in September 2014, with liner notes by his friend Jimmy Buffett. Rolling Stone called it "a gentle collection of playful songs about love, memory and gratitude that amounts to one of the most moving, triumphant albums of Winchester's 45 year career."[17]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Chart Positions
CAN US
1970 Jesse Winchester 26
1972 Third Down, 110 to Go 34 193
1974 Learn to Love It
1976 Let the Rough Side Drag 210
1977 Nothing but a Breeze 115
Live at the Bijou Cafe
1978 A Touch on the Rainy Side 156
1981 Talk Memphis 188
1988 Humour Me
1989 The Best of Jesse Winchester
1999 Anthology
1999 Gentleman of Leisure
2001 Live from Mountain Stage
2005 Live
2009 Love Filling Station
2014 A Reasonable Amount of Trouble

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions Album
CAN CAN AC CAN Country US
1970 "Yankee Lady" 20 8 Jesse Winchester
1973 "Isn't That So" 34 21 Third Down, 110 to Go
1976 "Let the Rough Side Drag" 42 Let the Rough Side Drag
1977 "Nothing but a Breeze" 72 86 Nothing but a Breeze
1978 "Sassy" 45 A Touch on the Rainy Side
1979 "A Touch on the Rainy Side" 42
1981 "Say What" 23 13 32 Talk Memphis
1989 "Want to Mean Something to You" 50 Humour Me
"Well-a-Wiggy" 68

Appearances[edit]

Year Album Song
2003 Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot "Sundown"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jesse Winchester: Still Doing the Rhumba". TheSpec.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  2. ^ "Jesse Winchester profile". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  3. ^ "CANOE – JAM! Music – Pop Encyclopedia – Winchester, Jesse". Jam.canoe.ca. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  4. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Jesse Winchester profile". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Jesse Winchester dies of cancer". Toronto Star, 14 April 2014, E2.
  6. ^ Notice of death of Jesse Winchester, rollingstone.com; accessed November 19, 2015.
  7. ^ Profile, discogs.com; accessed November 19, 2015.
  8. ^ "Saying goodbye to The Wire over and over again, gawker.com; accessed November 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "Jesse Winchester". Appleseedmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  10. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Jesse-Winchester-Love-Filling-Station/release/5986303
  11. ^ "Jesse Winchester's Studio". Jessewinchester.com. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  12. ^ "Songwriter/performer Jesse Winchester is gravely ill". Usatoday.com. 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  13. ^ Tearson, Michael (April 11, 2014). "Jesse Winchester Passes". Sing Out!. 
  14. ^ Mehr, Bob (April 11, 2014). "Memphis-bred songwriter Jesse Winchester dies". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  15. ^ Browne, David (April 11) "Jesse Winchester Dead at 69, Singer-Songwriter Became Anti-War Icon" Rolling Stone (New York), April 11, 2014.
  16. ^ Notice of death of Jesse Winchester, rollingstone.com; accessed November 19, 2015.
  17. ^ "Jesse Winchester's chilling dissertation on dying", rollingstone.com; accessed November 19, 2015.

External links[edit]