Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey by Steve Lowenthal

dance of deathJohn Fahey carved out a little-known but influential niche of acoustic guitar music from the late 1950s on. His recordings, in a guitar style later known as “American Primitivism”, combined fingerpicked blues with other folk and classical music elements.  In his early 20s, Fahey also became an avid 78 collector who went with friends on forays through the deep South to find obscure recordings of pre-war blues performers.

His own earliest music coincided with the exploding folk music scene, and you figure that Fahey would have ridden the wave of the movement, but he largely eschewed the leading proponents of the folk craze – he even despised some of them.  Fahey followed his own counsel when making records and marketing them.  He even started his own label (Takoma) for his own releases and others, including a young Leo Kottke.

Dance of Death explores the art and mind of John Fahey – as a musician who fused the familiar and strange into his own brand of folk music, and as a troubled man with addictions who often pushed away his closest friends, even in his later years, when he lived through homelessness and health issues.

The author, though obviously an admirer of Fahey’s work, does not sugarcoat his treatment of the man – there was quite some darkness behind the fingerpicking genius.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

 

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