John Fahey

February 28, 2007

I came across some information about John Fahey on wood s lot today. I know very little about him, but I gather that Fahey was a folk guitarist who also worked on experimental musical forms.

In the summer of my discontent, 1998, neither I nor my best friend Johanna could get a job. It was hot and humid in New York City, we had very little cash, and the odd jobs we did just got odder and odder. For a weekend, we both were employed to sell programs at a multi-stage music festival hosted by Guinness. After we sold out of our programs, we were free to stay at the festival and watch the bands and spend our new money on expensive beer.

For some reason we ended up at one of the minor stages where John Fahey was playing a set. He was fat, and his white hair had not been combed in many weeks. His wore ratty jeans and a greasy T-shirt. His stage act consisted of sitting in a metal folding chair with his guitar, trying to keep his long and disgusting beard from getting caught in the strings. We had never heard of him and wondered how someone like this rated a berth on any stage, much less at a major NYC festival. He mumbled into a microphone as he played; the guitar music itself was forgettable–at least I don’t remember it. We figured he was either stoned beyond belief or so avant-garde that we mere mortals could not follow his art.

That’s why the following clip surprised me so much. It’s a video of him in 1969, and it’s absolutely lovely.


One Response to “John Fahey”

  1. Alex Says:

    According to the wiki article about him, he died in 2001 after a failed sextuple bypass operation. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a sextuple bypass. Old hippies were hard on their bodies, it seems.

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