British guitarist Michael Chapman has died at the age of 80. In an Instagram post announcing the news, no cause of death was given, but Chapman was reported to have died at home.
“Please raise a drink or two to a gentleman, a musician, a husband, a force of nature, a legend and the most skilled survivor,” his family wrote.
Yo La Tengo, BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Marc Riley, guitarists Chris Forsyth and Ryley Walker and broadcaster Danny Baker were among those who paid tribute to Chapman, who oscillated between folk, roots music, acoustic and noise, instrumental and sung, throughout his venerable career.
Paradise of Bachelors, which released Chapman’s last two studio albums, called him “a hero and friend to so many, including us, moving with unmatched grace, vigor, and gruff humor in and out. -beyond his songs and those he inspired by others “.
Chapman was born in Hunslet, Leeds, on October 24, 1941. He studied and later taught photography and drawing from life, while playing jazz and skiffle, citing Lonnie Donegan, Django Reinhardt and Big Bill Broonzy as influences. This led to a falling out with his parents, who wanted him to work at the same steel plant as his father. “But playing guitar paid for my education,” he told Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore in 2009.
A trip to Cornwall in 1967 started his career in earnest. “I went to college in art and one rainy evening in 1966 walked into a pub in Cornwall, but I couldn’t afford to pay to get in,” he recalls one day. “I said tell me what, I don’t want to be out in the rain, I’m going to play guitar for half an hour. I’ve been there ever since. “
Chapman released his debut album, Rainmaker, on the famous hippie label Harvest in 1969. A reissue on the Light in the Attic label called Chapman a “true stylist in his own right” and said he “held a middle line between John Martyn and Bert Jansch with the provocative electric rock of Martyn juxtaposed with the traditional folk so wonderfully espoused by Jansch. ”It was the first of three albums he recorded with Gus Dudgeon.
He was cataloged as part of the new London folk scene although he never lived there: “It was a very southern thing and I’m strictly a northerner,” he told Aquarium. Drunkard in 2016. “I stayed in Hull. It was at least 75% cheaper to live in Hull than in London and I’m a Yorkshire man – I don’t waste money.
The album appealed to Elton John, who indirectly appeared to ask Chapman to join the band that would perform on his self-titled 1970 album – not that Chapman realized at the time.
For his next album, 1970’s Fully Qualified Survivor, Chapman asked Hull guitarist Mick Ronson to play with him. He appeared on the record but didn’t leave his band, the Rats, on tour; David Bowie quickly made the Rats his own live band.
“He fired the singer and turned him into a roadie and Trevor and Woody and the Rats became the Spiders of Mars and some people think they got a little better,” Chapman told Drunkard Aquarium. “I’m not of that opinion, but there you go.
It continued to release prolifically throughout the 1970s – an era influenced in part by time spent in Memphis, where he produced the Savage Amusement album with producer Don Nix – and through the 1980s, until that a heart attack in 1990 blocked Chapman’s career. “Everyone forgot about me,” he told The Guardian in 2017. That was until Sonic Youth attended a concert he performed in Massachusetts in 1998, leading to a match. with leader Thurston Moore.
A period of rediscovery by other artists followed, including the late Virginia guitarist Jack Rose and the No Neck Blues Band, which inspired Chapman’s late-career foray into noise with The Resurrection and The Revenge of. Clayton Peacock in 2011. A tribute compilation album, Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done, has seen its work covered by artists such as Lucinda Williams, Meg Baird, Hiss Golden Messenger, Bridget St John and William Tyler.
He also found a peer in Pennsylvania, guitarist Steve Gunn, who recorded two of Chapman’s acclaimed final days albums, 2017’s Return to Form 50, and 2019’s True North, and has toured with artists. such as Moore, Kurt Vile and Bonnie Prince Billie.
In the interview with Aquarium Drunkard, reporter Jason Woodbury asked Chapman how his music still sounded so fresh and young. “It’s easy,” Chapman said. “Red wine!”