In a year where music lovers are already reeling with the loss of two Country Music Hall of Fame members, two Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members, and five Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, we yet again mourn the loss of another great.
Bluegrass singer James King died today (5/19) of complications from his long battle with liver disease.
Born in Virginia and raised on the classics such as the Stanley Brothers, King began working on a music career after his enlistment in the Marines. He played with Ralph Stanley and, in the early 90s, began the James King Band. He was also a member of the bluegrass supergroup Longview (that also featured heavy hitters such as Dudley Connell and JD Crowe).
King's voice was pure bluegrass, with those terrific story songs that would grab your heart and choke it. The title track of his classic album Bed By the Window was a perfect example. The song is about two friends who were roomed together in a nursing home. Both confined to their beds, the friend in the envious eponymous bed describes the world in all its beautiful splendor to his buddy. Then the man dies and his friend, eager to see the world that his friend had described, is moved to the bed by the window, only to see it faces a stone wall.
King once said the best advice he ever received about performing was "spill your guts onstage and then walk in 'em." The "bed by the window" is empty now. King's death, compounded with the loss of Guy Clark earlier in the week, means that someone else has to paint lovely portraits on dingy walls. No one will do it with the heart and emotion that James King was able to pour into a song.
Farewell to James King, who was just 57.