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Jesse Winchester

Jesse Winchester was the music world's most prominent Vietnam War draft evader, though his renown came from a body of wry, closely observed songs. After growing up in Memphis, Winchester received his draft notice in 1967 and moved to Montreal, Canada, rather than serve in the military. In 1969, he met Robbie Robertson of the Band, who helped launch his recording career. In the same way that James Taylor's history of mental instability and drug abuse served as a subtext for his early music, Winchester's exile lent real-life poignancy to songs like "Yankee Lady," which appeared on his debut album, Jesse Winchester (1970). He became a Canadian citizen in 1973.

Despite critical acclaim, his inability to tour in the U.S. prevented him from taking his place among the major singer/songwriters of the early '70s, but he made a series of impressive albums -- Third Down, 110 to Go (August 1972), Learn to Love It (August 1974), Let the Rough Side Drag (June 1976), and Nothing But a Breeze (March 1977) -- before President Jimmy Carter instituted an amnesty that finally allowed him to play in his homeland. By that time, the singer/songwriter boom had passed, though Winchester continued to record (A Touch on the Rainy Side [July 1978], Talk Memphis [February 1981], Humour Me [1988]) and even scored a Top 40 hit with "Say What" in 1981.

His most prominently covered songs include "Yankee Lady" (Brewer & Shipley), "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz" (Joan Baez, Ian Matthews), "Biloxi" (Tom Rush, Jimmy Buffett), "Mississippi, You're on My Mind" (Jerry Jeff Walker, Stoney Edwards [for a Top 40 country hit]), "Defying Gravity" (Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris), "Rhumba Girl" (Nicolette Larson [for a pop chart entry]), "Well-A-Wiggy" (the Weather Girls [for an R&B chart entry]), and "I'm Gonna Miss You, Girl" (Michael Martin Murphey [for a Top Ten country hit]).

In 1999, Winchester returned from a long recording hiatus with the new album Gentleman of Leisure. An active live performer, Winchester released his first live album in 24 years with 2001's Jesse Winchester Live at Mountain Stage. The following year he moved from Canada back to the United States and settled down in Charlottesville, Virginia with his new wife, Cindy Duffy. Two albums would follow before the close of the decade: Live, a concert recording that Winchester claimed was released without his authorization, and a new studio album, Love Filling Station, released on Appleseed Recordings in 2009. Winchester was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011 but was pronounced cancer-free following surgery. However, in early 2014 he received a diagnosis of bladder cancer, and he died from the disease at home in Charlottesville on April 11, 2014; Jesse Winchester was 69 years old. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

rhumba on jesse!
mdblues9
My favorite singer/songw r i t e r not named Dylan
RIP Jesse Winchester. You sweet voice will live on in our hearts.
rob900
I saw JW in a club in London Ontario in the late 1970s. Simply one of the most memorable evenings of music and reverie. Jesse and his music will always defy gravity.
rob900
I saw JW in a club in London Ontario in the late 1970s. Simply one of the most memorable evenings of music and reverie. Fro me Jesse will always defy gravity.
What a great talent, sad that he's gone.
timgreathead m a i l
...the fool, the great beautiful fool, God love him...
I have loved Jesse Winchester since first seeing him on the Midnight Special in 1977, singing Nothing But A Breeze and You Can't Stand Up Alone with Emmy Lou and Bonnie Raitt. Pure heaven. I have seen him in person three times, the last two in the past few years, and he was a droll, soft-spoken troubadour who was able to laugh at himself and visit with the audience.
I am willing to be friends just plz follow me
This is a good song
Oh lord, when your jeweler's eye peers into my soul, I am overcome with shame... What person hasn't felt that moment? Sheer genius...
why is this guy not more widely heard? he certainly has the touch i like!
hrsource51
I've been a fan since the early 70's. Great voice and incredible song writer.
Twigs and Seeds on Nothing But A Breeze is a great song I still love to hear now and then . It used to get some air play in CT in the late 70's but I have not heard it played since, except on my LP record.
First heard Jesse at The Yellow Door in Montreal in 1974 and have been a fan ever since. Last heard him at The Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River MA in 2011.
Had the opportunity to see Jesse Winchester at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton Ohio. What an awesome evening. LIfe is Nothing but a Breeze
alxdnc
J.W. is back on the road after cancer treatment.Ne w tribute album is very good.Jesse's version of Stand by Me is stellar on his last record.
frank.lawren c e
I've seen him live twice, and he did seem to enjoy himself very much both times. Give him a third chance! If anyone deserves it, its JW. Great songwriter, and the times I've seen him, also an intimate and engaging performer.
9bitte
Jesse writes great songs, and is a gentle soul and very personal performer. Having served in the stupid madness called war; that madness in Vietnam, I'm glad Jesse got wisdom and saved himself. Now we still have him.
have loved his songs forever, but the two times I've seen him live he didn"t seem to enjoy the event. Anybody else experience this?
candiasander s
We listened to Jesse in college; love that his music is still being appreciated.
I roomed with a guy who was in Vietnam. He would scream in him sleep of terror. He was an alcoholic and finally committed suicide.SAD. . . .
i think he was smart for moving to Canada. Otherwise, he might be like some of these other poor Vietnam vets,homeles s , mentally sick and felt unappreciate d . . . .
mrhappy9
Chuck says:
I first heard Jesse in a recording studio in Las Cruses, N.M. 1977. He had just finished "Nothing But a Breeze"...I' v e attempted to keep up with him since. He has moved around a lot. In '77, his music was real grass roots.
You forgot his best work "Gentleman of Leisure" produced by Jerry Douglas with guest spots by Steve Cropper and Vince Gill. My favorite of all including Live from Mountain Stage. BTW he's great in concert with nothing bu his nylon string guitar, awesome voice and southern gentleman charm.
chanroark
and Talk Memphis, what a great homesick song
Jackson didn't take the easy way out but went to Canada instead. Yankee Lady is one of the all time greats.
Mike Cintron
JESSE WINCHESTER HAS A GREAT VOICE,LIKE HIS SONGS,DIDN`T LIKE WHAT HE DID TO AVOID SERVING HIS COUNTRY BUT SETTING THAT ASIDE HE HAD A NICE VOICE AND WAS A GREAT SONG WRITER AND PERFORMER..T H A N K S PANDORA
Sounds like a good subject for a biography. Maybe Canada can claim him as their own. National medal of honor. That type of thing.

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