John Stewart, 1939 - 2008 : Songwriter, Singer, Artist
John Stewart wrote more truly great songs than any other singer-songwriter of the twentieth century. A tall statement , that, especially given who those other singer-songwriters were - artists like Guthrie and Dylan and Simon and Lightfoot and Taylor and Denver and more. If John Stewart never quite achieved the sustained acclaim and chart success of those others, it wasn't for want of quality original material or mesmerizing performance skills. It was simply a vagary of fate, one that gifted him with extraordinary powers of composition and musicianship but exacted in exchange the cost of labor in the shadows of commercial success.
If that exchange rendered this extraordinarily complex and sensitive artist and man something of a cult figure during his lifetime - well, he was at least our cult figure. It has always felt like something of a privilege to know and treasure the music of John Stewart, from his days as a member of the legendary Kingston Trio through his forty year solo career, when so relatively few others were afforded the same acquaintance with his muse and his genius that we who knew him through the decades have been. His passing in January 2008 seems to have reawakened substantial interest in the music community in his life and work, at least for now. If this be but another fleeting brush with public appreciation - then so be it. As one anonymous poster wrote on a video page shortly after his death - "Faith, pride and optimism. John you will always come back to us when we need you." Thus has it always been - and will be as long as some lonesome picker finds some healing in his songs.