The Passing of John Renbourn

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My longtime guitar hero and friend John Renbourn of Pentangle fame died in late March, 2015. He was 70.

Starting in the ’60s, I was inspired by John’s great facility and deep sensitivity with the guitar. He and his picking partner Bert Jansch provided me with considerable inspiration and countless hours of lifting fingerpicking tunes off records. I still play many of the tunes I learned from them.

jonhrI first saw John perform a solo concert at the University of Vienna (Austria), where I was living at the time, on my birthday in November of 1977. I got to know him through my work at Frets magazine in the ’80s, when I recruited John to become a fingerstyle guitar columnist for us after the retirement of Chet Atkins from that position. I first shared the stage with him at a concert in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1991. I still have the poster on my wall.

John was not only a great musician, composer, arranger and guitarist, but a supporter of all things musical, including my endeavors. He gave us permission to include several of his tunes in a number of our books; he was the first instructor I hired when we started our annual Accent On Music Fingerstyle Guitar Seminar; and, happily for me, he gladly shared the stage with me on many occasions.

And, closest to my heart, John provided me with the image of what a great instructor at our seminars should be: When he stayed with us during that first seminar, John went to the store, bought a set of jacks, brought them home and got down on our kitchen floor with our two daughters (ages 9 and 7 at the time), and played jacks with them. This is an image of John that will stay with me always: a kind, caring, fatherly type whose great talent produced no airs. I will miss him greatly.

Mark Hanson