BILL MORRISSEY by Lydia Hutchinson (published on July 25, 2011)
On July 23 one of my generation’s greatest troubadours, Bill Morrissey, left this earth at the age of 59. I’ve spent the last 24 hours since hearing the news trying to find the words to express the feelings of loss that always seem to hold the hand of regret, the warp-speed passing of time, and the ever-present fear of change before finally circling around to gratitude for a life that made us better.
When I started Performing Songwriter magazine back in 1993, I was blessed with the opportunity, as a fan, to stumble into the New England folk world at one of its most fertile times, and, shockingly, be invited to sit at their table. It was a community that was crazy talented and a family that treasured its time together.
It was the world where the pre-Grammy Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin had honed their craft; where Rounder Records supported and signed rising talents like Ellis Paul, Vance Gilbert and Diane Zeigler; a time when Dar Williams was whipping up a buzz with her first indie project, as were other girls-with-guitars like Catie Curtis, Barbara Kessler and Cosy Sheridan; Marty Sexton was wowing first-time listeners with that voice; and it was the moment The Story’s Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball crossed over into the majors when their second album was signed to Elektra. It was a time when Christine Lavin would hold September songwriter retreats on Martha’s Vineyard and these young writers would hang out on a porch and write songs with the likes of Tom Paxton, Dave Van Ronk and Shel Silverstein, or be entertained by Cheryl Wheeler, Patty Larkin, John Gorka and Cliff Eberhardt simply being themselves.
And in the center of that rich and fertile space of creativity stood Bill Morrissey. He was revered. He was studied. He was a kind and patient teacher of the supreme importance of words. Of tradition. Of art with purpose. Of writing truth instead of fact. But mostly he was a beloved friend.
So that’s the place I circled over since hearing the sad news. Back to that time of big dreams and endless possibilities; of community and creativity; of youth and lightness.
All of you who were his friends, family and colleagues, please know you’re in my heart. From my vantage point as a lucky witness, I saw Bill make you better in a multitude of ways. And I also saw you fill his life with friendship and song.
Below is a beautiful interview with Bill by Scott Alarik from Issue 5 of Performing Songwriter. I find it a perfect tribute to a first-class songwriter who will live on in our hearts, and his art that will live on in our lives.