Reports that Jesse Winchester has passed away after a battle with cancer were premature but the health of the songwriter is fading.
Janis Ian tweeted news of Jesse’s death just shortly after his official Facebook page prepared fans for the news.
Yesterday, Winchester’s official Facebook page held the message:
The studio has been quiet – deafeningly so – as Jesse is receiving hospice care, in home and with family. It is a difficult time, but as always and in his own special way, he has something to teach us about grace and beauty.
That was followed on Sunday evening by the following post by Janis Ian:
RIP Jesse Winchester. As underrated a singer as Chet Baker. As underrated a guitarist as Willie Nelson. A man who held the audience in the palm of his hand without moving an inch. One of the best songwriters on earth. Damn damn damn.
Winchester had been battling cancer of the esophagus since 2011.
Jesse was a scholar as a teen, graduating from Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, TN as a Merit finalist, national honor society member and class Salutatorian. Unfortunately, just after his college graduation, he received his draft notice and, instead of serving, moving to Montreal, Canada.
Although he dabbled with music in high school, he didn’t go full into the profession until he got to Montreal, joining the band Les Astronautes. Eventually, he started playing in coffeehouses around eastern Canada.
The band’s Robbie Robertson took notice of Winchester and helped him get his first record contract, issuing his self-titled debut album in 1970. While he continued to record through the decade, he was unable to tour outside of Canada and became better known for his songs then for his own performances. Artists picked up and recorded a number of his songs including Brand New Tennessee Waltz, Yankee Lady, A Showman’s Life and Biloxi.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to draft evaders and allowed special amnesty for Winchester who had become a Canadian citizen, opening up the U.S. market to Winchester as a touring artist. He didn’t move back to the U.S. until 2002.
Between 1970 and 1981, Winchester released seven studio albums before taking a break from the business, living off of his song royalties. He returned in 1988 with Humour Me followed by an even longer eleven year break before 1999’s Gentleman of Leisure. Jesse released his tenth and final studio album, Love Filling Station, in 2009.
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