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Singer-Songwriter Jesse Winchester Dies

Jesse Winchester
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

The music community is mourning the loss of one of their own. Singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester passed away Friday (April 11) from cancer. He was 69 years old.

The Memphis musician is best known for penning such hits as ‘The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Biloxi’ and ‘Yankee Lady.’ Numerous artists have also recorded his works, including Ralph Stanley, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Reba McEntire, Anne Murray, the Everly Brothers and many more. But while his music covered a wide array of genres, including country, folk and blues, Winchester didn’t pay attention to any of the titles.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a pop person,” he told the Commercial Appeal,  “though I can see why some folks thought, ‘Oh, here comes another bearded white guy with a guitar.”

After his success in the ’70s, the Louisiana native stayed largely out of the spotlight, recording only a few albums in the ’80s and ’90s, and focusing on his family. But, after the release of his 2009 critically acclaimed album, ‘Love Filling Station,’ along with an appearance on Costello’s TV show, ‘Spectacle,’ he saw his popularity surge again with an entirely new generation of fans.

Winchester commented that being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011 came at a time when everything else in his life seemed to be going well.

“At the time I got sick, I had more bookings than I’d had in a while,” he recalled. “And the disease happened right in the middle of it.”

The tunesmith received support from many of his famous friends when news broke of his illness. Buffett organized a tribute album in Winchester’s honor, with performances by James Taylor, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Costello and several others. It was, Winchester admitted, a humbling moment for him.

“When that tribute record happened, I was truly gratified by it,” he said. “But I had so many kind things said to me by complete strangers during my (illness). Providence works out to where you go through something like that, and those are the things you remember. Which is a blessing, isn’t it?”

Earlier this year, Winchester learned the cancer had spread to his bladder, and spent his remaining days in hospice care. He is survived by his wife, Cindy, three children, a step-daughter and five grandchildren.

The Boot extends our deepest condolences to the Winchester family.

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