British guitarist and founder of Pentangle John Renbourn has died aged 70. He was out on tour with Wizz Jones recently and after failing to turn up for a gig police found him at his home in the Scottish Borders, he is believed to have died from heart attack.
In response to his death Renbourn’s manager, Dave Smith, said John was a “delight…He was just larger than life. Game for anything. He was just finishing off a tour with Wizz Jones – and was looking forward to the next. He was a great teacher – he was always putting himself down as a teacher and running weekend workshops all over Europe, where he would have students come and learn from him.”
Although most remembered for his work with Pentangle which he founded in 1967 he, along with his sparring partner Bert Jansch created some of the most inventive music at the time on the British Folk Scene. Together they also ran a club at the Three Horseshoes on Tottenham Court Road.
John had a great love for the blues something he made very clear on his self-titled 1966 debut but together with Bert they were amazing. Take a listen to Bert Jansch’s Jack Orion (1966) on which John also played and then get yourself a copy of Bert & John an album that saw them at their inventive heights as well as featuring Anne Brigg’s performing ‘The Time Has Come’.
Although there was no pre-meditated plan to form a group, Pentangle, made up of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jaqui McShee, Terry Cox, and Danny Thompson were to go on to become the biggest folk-rock act of all time. Renbourn introduced his jazz and medieval musical influences which set their sound apart from Fairport Convention at the time. It was his classical guitar teacher who encouraged him to explore early music including Elizabethan lute playing.
Post-Pentangle John went on to record more solo albums often based on traditional influences. He returned to college in the mid-80s where he earned a degree in composition at Dartington College of Arts.
In ’88 he briefly formed a group called Ship of Fools with Tony Roberts (flute), the late Maggie Boyle (lyrics, misc. instruments) and Steve Tilston (guitar). He later continued to tour both solo and with Wizz Jones.
Talking about his career Dave Smith also said “But his solo career has been a continuous thing. It never got large because it’s very specialist music, but he’s had an international fan base because of his influential playing style.”
No doubt he’ll be there jamming now with the best of them: Bert, Davy, Maggie…