see the 2 songs John Gorka played at the Bill Morrissey tribute concert
November 17, 2011, at Somerville Theatre, Somerville, MA..
Morrissey, 59, folk troubadour passed away
By John Timpane, Inquirer Staff Writer
Morrissey, 59, longtime folksinger, songwriter, and veteran of the
coffee-house circuit throughout the country, died Saturday, July
23, in Dalton, Ga., of extensive heart disease.
Bill Morrissey (left) with John Gorka,
David Wilcox and Christine Lavin at Falcon Ridge early 90s.
Mr. Morrissey lived in New Hampshire and was a frequent performer
in coffee shops and folk venues, especially in the Northeast. His
music ranged from tough portraits of New England milltown life ("Small
Town on the River") to good-hearted examinations of love, as in
his popular tune "Birches," in which a woman dances in the light
of a birch fire after her man, who prefers to burn the longer-lasting
oak, has gone to bed:
she stood up in the heat.She twirled around the room.
And the shadows they saw nothing but a young girl on her honeymoon.
And she knew the time it would be short; soon the fire would start
She thought of heat.
She thought of time. She called it an even trade.
twice for Grammy awards, for his 1993 collaboration with Brown,
Friend of Mine, and his 1999 album, Songs of Mississippi John Hurt.
his attention to lyrics suggests, he was also a published fiction
writer and part of the creative-writing scene in theNortheast.
His novel Edson (1996), about a musician in a New Hampshire mill
town, drew critical praise. Chapters from a second novel, Imaginary
Runner, were published as separate short tales; Runner was rumored
to have been completed shortly before his death.
fragile health in recent years, Mr. Morrissey had battled depression,
bipolar disorder, and alcoholism. He passed away in a hotel room
in Georgia, according to his manager, Ellen Karas. He was on a stopover
en route home after a series of appearances.
Bill Morrissey playing his final
concert in Lebanon, Tenn. on July 16
(photo: Ramcey Rodriguez.
At their best, his lyrics and storytelling reminded listeners of the
work of writers such as Raymond Carver and John Steinbeck. Born in
Hartford, Conn., in 1951, Mr. Morrissey studied the great folk artists
of the 1960s, as well as the American music embodied by bluesmen Mississippi
John Hurt and Robert Johnson, country singer Hank Williams, and Kansas
City jazz and swing musicians like Count Basie and Lester Young.
He appeared often at the Stone Church in Newmarket, N.H.
working there as a janitor and then doing gigs in the late 1970s.
He released 10 albums from 1984 to 2007, including an
album with Greg Brown in 1993. His debut, Bill Morrissey, received
quick recognition for its distinctive stories, characters, and lyrics,
as well as for his deep, soft growl of a voice, which later became
His standout performance at the 1985 Newport Folk Festival and albums
such as North (1986), Standing Eight (1989), and Night Train (1993)
continued his legacy. He was known to work assiduously on his singing
and songwriting. He was
Over the years, Mr. Morrissey played often at the Tin Angel and at
the Philadelphia Folk Festival. In 1970, he moved to in
Lansdale, Pa., with his family. His mother, Marion E. Morrissey,
resides in Lansdale; a brother Thomas lives in Harleysville, and
another brother, Joseph, in Medford, N.J.
staff writer John Timpane at 215-854-4406,
here to listen to John
Gorka on Live at Noon (7-29-2011)
John Gorka talked with Jay Moberg about the Red Horse project, Jack
Hardy and Bill Morrissey. He played "Don't Mind Me" and "If These
Walls Could Talk". He also played the Jack Hardy song "Potter's
Field" and a brand new untitled song. John wrote this song just
after Bill Morrissey passed away. It's called "A coda for Bill ("Don't
Judge a Life by How It Ends").
here to listen at Bill's song "Handsome
here for a "In Tribute to Bill Morrissey"
good article about Bill in "Performing songwriter".