Birthday Blues for Bert

Bert Jansch was one the greatest acoustic guitarists who ever lived. He revived folk music in the 1960s and inspired other musicians to mine traditional sources for material. His fingerpicking technique borrowed from jazz, folk, classical, flamenco, and virtually every other traditional guitar style. He also helped to preserve and advance English folk music at a time when rock and roll was taking over the popular culture, and in the process he infused these stylistic techniques into modern rock via his massive influence on contemporary guitarists such as Jimmy Page and Neil Young.

Case in point: here’s Jansch playing ‘Blackwaterside’ from his 1966 album ‘Jack Orion’.This is a traditional Northern Irish folk song, and no-one really knows who composed the tune. Jimmy Page was obsessed with Bert Jansch when he was young, and eventually Led Zeppelin transformed this song into ‘Black Mountain Side’. Jansch’s record company almost sued them, but backed out because the song was technically in the public domain, meaning that his copyright couldn’t be enforced.

One of Bert Jansch’s last musical triumphs was a tour he undertook with Neil Young last year. Here’s Bert and Neil performing ‘Ambulance Blues’ from Neil’s album ‘On The Beach’ at a Bridge School concert in 2006.

Bert Jansch was born on November 3rd, 1943, and passed away just last month on October 5th.


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