Ironically, two other people died today who also made world changing contributions to the modern scene, yet most people will never have heard of them.
As quoted from USA Today—The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the civil rights icon hailed in his native Alabama as a "black Moses," died Wednesday. He was 89. Described in a 1961 CBS documentary as "the man most feared by Southern racists," Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings, repeated jailings and other attacks — physical and financial — in his unyielding determination to heal the country's most enduring, divisive and volatile chasm.
Rev. Shuttlesworth was said to have pushed MLK to come to Birmingham where the freedom movement finally caught the eyes of the world. His story is remarkable, and his kind of courage is seldom seen.
Finally, on a more personal note, the third unique individual, who shaped the world in a very different way, was the great Scottish guitarist, Bert Jansch, who died today at 67. He is the first guitarist that I heard doing absolutely remarkable things on the guitar. He did not play like anyone else (Yes, he was certainly influenced by Davy Graham, but, to repeat one of my original slogans: he did not imitate; he did innovate). He wasn't the fastest or the most polished. He did not play classical or flamenco like John Williams or Andres Segovia. He did not play flashy gypsy jazz like Django Rinehart, or cool country like Chet Atkins, or flying flat-pick like Doc Watson, yet his complex and eclectic style (which often sounded like two, and sometimes three, guitars playing at the same time) influenced the world of folk, and rock, and country, and jazz like very few people. His innovative approach to the acoustic guitar, along with his musical cohort, John Renbourn, inspired Paul Simon, Donovan, Jimmie Page, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Will Ackerman and Alex DeGrassi (whose acoustic guitar albums helped usher in New Age as a genre), and thousands of other guitar players. Pentangle (the seminal folk-baroque-jazz-rock group with Jansch, Renbourn, Jacqui McShea, Terry Cox, and Danny Thompson) also broke new musical ground and paved the way for many cross-genre explorations.
Bert was also an uncompromising vocalist and a powerful songwriter. He never surrendered his caustic Scottish brogue nor his willingness to break the rules to create unique musical experiences.
I had the great fortune to see him three times: once with Pentangle in a large venue, and twice at the wonderful, intimate McCabe's. His playing inspired me to create my own original guitar compositions (you can hear some of them on YouTube in my Instrumental Travelogues playlist).
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his poem "Each and All," said,
"Nor knowest thou what argument
Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent."
It is true that we rarely understand the impact that we have on the lives of others, but my guess is that Reverend Shuttleworth, Mr. Jobs, and Mr. Jansch had an inkling of the positive impact they had on their society. Would that all our leaders, all our innovators, all our artists could catch a little of the spirit of innovation, creativity, and courage that these three men offered to the world.