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John Fahey’s Dance of Death

I recall as if it were only yesterday or possibly even a distant dream of my high school years in Huntsville, Alabama, when many a late evening I would set up my turntable with my latest record of guitarist John Fahey, such as Dance of Death and other Plantation Favorites. I would lift up the center piece arm to allow for multiple repeats and fall asleep with the headphones on to allow the music to soak into my somewhat virginal musical soul throughout the night. Apparently something was going on because my days in school were often clouded by the music of the previous evening, disrupting any real concept or consideration of a sense of focus – which was fine with me. I enjoyed my escape into the world of John Fahey. The acoustic guitar was a new venture for me at the time. During my development as a player it seemed that the only way to exorcise these musical demons (or should I say gems) that were stuck in my head was to learn them and attempt to evict them through my fingers.

Fast forward 35 years and my recollections remind me that sometimes dreams do come true. I can say that I did eventually learn much of John’s music, met him, toured with him, had him over to the house on more than one occasion, and shared a few laughs and meals together on the road. Parts of these memories are the more than quirky stories that would probably made the likes of Jack Kerouac, Werner Herzog or Andy Warhol proud. Although this was during a short period of my career and life, the memories remain rock solid and my gratitude knows no bounds for that gift from the musical Gods.

Gilewitz_Alice_CinemaLately another gift for us all is the creation and release of the film project by director James Cullingham, The Legend of Blind Joe Death -The Saga of John Fahey. I have been honored to be a small part of this release, presenting the screenings in some very select and unique locations, such as the Ireland debut at the 9th Annual Clonakilty International Guitar Festival, at the Central Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and most recently, the double debut screening in Auckland and Christchurch New Zealand.

The Bunker, Auckland’s resident folk club for over 40 years in Devonport, New Zealand is located on top of a mountain providing an almost retreat like location complete with fireplace and just about the best crowd one could ever hope for to honor John and this illuminating project. The rainy and chilly evening felt perfect as the audience learned a little more about this free-spirited musician.

Gilewitz_Alice_Cinema_JeremyThe South Island hosted the film in Christchurch at a fantastic and quaint 38 seat theatre, Alice Cinematheque, which for nearly a year was the only surviving cinema after a devastating pair of earthquakes. I was informed by the cinema owner that this screening was the first time in the theatre’s history that saw a live music performance and talk precede one of the many independent releases that had graced their screen.

As much a film buff as a lover of so much music, it’s great to see that sometimes justice does prevail. For me, it is actually a personal kick to see the root notes of one of our century’s musical legends secure a spot in the historical musical archives for years to come.

Richard Gilewitz

About the author

Richard Gilewitz

For over three decades fingerstyle guitarist Richard Gilewitz has charmed audiences with road tales and right-hand wizardry, creating a sparkle of mood mastery and wonderment during each performance. Recognized world wide as a performer who has a quirky take on everything around him, Richard lives up to this depiction with rousing shows filled with offbeat observations and 6 & 12-string gymnastics. As a youngster, Richard Gilewitz embraced such diverse artists as The Beatles, Andres Segovia, Kraftwerk, Leo Kottke, J.S. Bach, Arlo Guthrie, John Fahey and Flatt & Scruggs. With Richard's signature playing style delivering a technical diversity of banjo style picking patterns, classical arpeggios, tapping and harmonics, along with a rhythmic and percussive approach, he shares a fresh impression of sound to the listener during his concert performances and at his annual 2-day GillaCamp Guitar Workshop. Students around the globe also attend Richard's roving GillaCamp Guitar Workshop, a 1 to 4 hour interactive experience that provides players an avenue to renew their love of the guitar. In between touring, Richard conducts private lessons and also teaches students through Skype. Catch Richard's tour schedule at www.richardgilewitz.com

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