Singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester finally succumbed after his long battle with cancer and died on Friday at his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 69.
According to his manager and agent Keith Case he cause was bladder cancer, said his manager and agent, Keith Case.
In its appreciation of Winchester’s career, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that: “The mellifluous-voiced author of ‘The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Mississippi, You’re on My Mind’ and ‘Biloxi,’ the Memphis-raised Winchester had long been a favorite of critics and fellow musicians, covered by a wide array of artists from Wilson Pickett to the Everly Brothers, Jerry Garcia to Reba McEntire. Bob Dylan was famously quoted as saying of Mr. Winchester: ‘You can’t talk about the best songwriters and not include him.’ In 2007, Mr. Winchester was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from performing rights organization ASCAP for his body of work.” (Winchester spent many of his early years in Memphis).
Winchester cancelled a series of March concerts in Canada due to ill health. Winchester had been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2011 and underwent surgery and treatment before returning to the road. An email from is concert promoter at the time read, “Unfortunately, Jesse Winchester has become ill again and has cancelled all concerts on his upcoming schedule until further notice. We wish him all the best as he fights his latest battle.”
Winchester’s official Facebook page reported on Sunday that: ‘The studio has been quiet – deafeningly so – as Jesse is receiving hospice care, in home and with family. It is a difficult time, but as always and in his own special way, he has something to teach us about grace and beauty.’
On Sunday evening singer Janis Ian posted a note on her Facebook page erroneously stating: ‘RIP Jesse Winchester.’ This led to subsequent reports in media outlets of the singer’s death.
Ian added, “As underrated a singer as Chet Baker. As underrated a guitarist as Willie Nelson. A man who held the audience in the palm of his hand without moving an inch. One of the best songwriters on earth. Damn damn damn.’
Winchester had been declared cancer-free in 2011; however, he fell ill again in late 2012 and in October that year was unable to attend a tribute concert at The Great American Music Hall with Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and others.
Born in Louisiana on May 17, 1944, Winchester became a Canadian citizen in 1973 after moving to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft.
Winchester’s best known songs include ‘Yankee Lady,’ ‘The Brand New Tennessee Waltz’, ‘Mississippi, You’re on My Mind’, ‘A Showman’s Life’ and ‘Biloxi.’ Artists who have recorded his songs include Jerry Jeff Walker, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett and Joan Baez.
Winchester released a dozen albums between 1970 and 2009, including the classic Third Down, 110 To Go.
The CD tribute to Winchester, Quiet About It, was released in 2012 and featured his songs by James Taylor, Rosanne Cash, Jimmy Buffett,Allen Toussaint, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell (with EmmyLou Harrisl), Little Feat and Elvis Costello.