A Tribute To Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch and I arrived at the same club in London within 3 months of each other in 1965. We’d both had very separate journeys to get there, we knew nothing of each other, but we arrived at Les Cousins in Greek St, Soho, for the same reason. We were both inspired to play music to people. I was introduced to the club by Peter Bellamy of The Young Tradition

Within a week I realised that this was going to be my new home. There was lots to take in. There were so many fantastic young musicians. I can remember being absolutely blown away by a young American called Danny Kalb in the first week. Going home and thinking that as far as the blues was concerned, I was miles behind where I could have been. I’d been in my own vacuum, it was time to get involved.

The young players were all very gifted but very different people. It was an amazing place to be. Among the many I saw in that first week were John Renbourne, Alexis Korner, Paul Simon and Alex Campbell, oh, and yes, someone called Bert Jansch. Bert who? How d’you spell that then? At first I didn’t know what to think about Bert except that, in all probability, from a woman’s point of view, he was incredibly attractive.

He was very softly spoken and obviously very shy. He was an attractive young man with a good average physique that seemed to have a wiry strength. His hair naturally flowed and fell in waves across a gentle but strong face with kind eyes. His Scottish accent was strangely only just discernible, but his playing, and his delivery, were both immediately stunning. Some of his words weren’t always that decipherable, but the combination of the guitar and vocal together were truly a perfect and unique fit. The one thing you knew was that this guy had really found his medium. And it looked like he’d been there for years.

For a young man of 20, his songs were astounding. Things like ‘The Needle Of Death’, ‘Running From Home’ and ‘Strolling Down The Highway’, as well as his own version of Davy Graham’s famous ‘Anji’ were truly magic pieces of their age. He was a humble powerhouse whose honesty was so obviously unquestionable.

Bert was always such a very private man. Getting him to respond was sometimes an undertaking. It was often a struggle for him to speak, but then again, his songs spoke for him. They were often among the most eloquent pieces of musical folk art imaginable. Plaintive, intricate and beckoning, with seemingly an ancient root reaching back across long centuries to some deeply pure and mysterious earth knowledge.

As a presence, and particularly as a young man, his effect on most of his friends was beyond description. He was unfathomably and instantly attractive. I will never forget that. He gave love in such a gentle way that it was impossible not to immediately identify with that and be forever enraptured by one so gifted in that respect. Bert wrote his songs, and treated his friends from the heart, and his friends will never forget him. Ever.

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