Folk legend Vin Garbutt has died at the age of 69, just weeks after undergoing major heart surgery to remove his mitral valve and have a mechanical replacement inserted. His family posted the following message on Facebook:
It’s with great sadness and extremely heavy hearts that we must inform you that our beloved Vin passed away this morning.
He loved the life he shared with you all, and we know how much he’ll be missed. Although we won’t be able to see him again, we’re grateful that we will be able to listen to him for the rest of our lives.
All the very best, Pat, Emma, Tim, Katie & Louis
He was on BBC Tees radio only the other week talking about his recovery, saying how he was so pleased to be home and how he looking forward to gardening which he loved. He also posted a picture of himself with guitar in hand on his Facebook page, clearly keen to let fans know he would be on the road again. Tributes and memories have been pouring in today after the sad news was revealed earlier today. BBC Tees ran this lovely tribute in response to the news:
Synthetic Hues was Vin’s 16th album which he released in 2015. In the Folk Radio UK review of the album, Paul Woodgate pretty much summed up the man’s greatness in one paragraph:
Forty years of song-writing allows a man to choose his subject-matter from a wide diaspora, and what’s immediately striking about this collection is the breadth of stories contained within. So much wider than love found and love lost, Synthetic Hues reprises a thirty-year-old version of Kipling’s If, explores the meaning of friendship in a cave below the Mendips and weaves social and ecological history together in a tale of The Black Poplar. Elsewhere, the impacts of seeking asylum are investigated at a first-person level and the shipyards of the Tees used as a metaphor for dreams found closer to home. All human life is here. Read the full review here.
Whilst Teeside was a big part of his life where he had a huge loyal fan base he was a legend across the world, known not just as a folk singer but also a protest singer. He had a large social and environmental awareness and he wasn’t afraid to tackle subjects, he recognised the need for political debate…rather than “sitting there and agreeing with everything”.
He was shaped by the industrial North East where his contribution was widely recognised with Teesside University awarding him an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts in 2001 for his music and his services to the arts and culture of the area of the North East of England.
He was born in South Bank, Middlesborough, the son of an English father and an Irish mother. He would spend time in his early years exploring his Irish musical roots, although it was while busking around the Meditteranean he discovered a talent for songwriting. It wasn’t long before he recorded his first album The Valley of Tees in 1972 for Bill Leader.
Throughout his career, he was a source of encouragement to many, something Bob Fox spoke about in a Folk Radio UK interview in 2015. After leaving the folk scene and becoming a teacher, Bob was desperate to get back into singing…
“…Vin doesn’t drive, and he was always looking for people to drive him to his gigs. So we did each other a favour. I drove him to the gigs…his gigs were always full because he’s a star…and I would always do a floor spot and get a gig. Vin was always saying to the organisers ‘You’ve got to book this bloke, he’s really great!’ So every time I took him on a gig, I got a gig…and eventually filled my diary up. And once I was back out there again, the ball was rolling.” Read the full interview here.
He didn’t want to become a big star but he was…and he was far brighter than those that happily call themselves stars today. He will remain an inspiration to many, as Paul said in his review about Vin’s last album… “It sounds You just hope the younger generations is listening in with an ear for the future.”
As anyone who saw him perform will know, it was the songs, that voice, the sentiment, the awareness and the humour. You can’t learn any of that.
Rest in Peace Vin.
20 November 1947 – 6 June 2017