Saturday, January 3, 2009

In Memoriam: Davey Graham

Davey Graham: Anji


I can sit here and give you a lot of facts about Davey Graham's life, but the reality is he played hard and it cost him his proper place in the music business, he later described himself as having been "a casualty of too much self-indulgence." At the end of his career, he redeemed himself, but it didn't make up for all the lost time.

He inspired many of the famous practitioners of guitar fingerpicking, musicians like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Martin Carthy, Eltjo Haselhoff, Jimmy Page (whom based his solo in White Summer on Graham's She Moved Thru) and Simon & Garfunkel, who covered Anji on their Sounds of Silence album. He was also known for his pioneering use of the DADGAD tuning, later widely adopted by acoustic guitarists worldwide.

David Michael Gordon Graham was born Nov. 22, 1940, in Leicester, England, to a Guyanese mother and a Scottish father. Though he never took any formal music lessons, he learned to play the piano and harmonica as a child and then took up the guitar at the age of 12. He lost the sight in his right eye after he fell on a pencil in a playground, that led him to develop a remarkable memory and ear for sound.

As a teen, Graham was a member of traditional Jazz bands and was tutored on the guitar by British Folk singer Steve Benbow. He traveled abroad every summer, busking on the streets of Paris before returning to perform in Folk clubs in England.

Graham's eclecticism posed a marketing dilemma for record companies and agents - his music was not exactly Folk and not quite Jazz. He incorporated Asian and Indian harmonies into his compositions and once termed his style "Folk-Baroque" because of the Classical techniques he brought to the guitar.

Graham's song Angi, named after a girlfriend, appeared on his debut EP 3/4 AD in April 1962, the tune spread like wildfire through a generation of aspiring guitarists. The spelling often changed, but it became Anji after it appeared that way on Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 album Sounds of Silence.

He reemerged in 2003 with a performance in the segment Red, White and Blues in the PBS series, The Blues, and in 2005, an BBC radio interview titled Whatever Happened to Davey Graham, which caused the reissue of his long out-of-print albums on CD. He started doing monthly concerts in London and released an CD of his own compositions, Broken Biscuits, in 2007.

At the beginning of 2008, Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on December 15th. He's survived by two daughters and leaves behind a musical legacy that will last as long as there's fingerpickers plucking six-strings across the globe. For further reading, our Boyhowdy wrote more about him here: RIP Davy Graham, 1940 - 2008.

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