Born Iain David McGeachy in Surrey, England, John spent much of his childhood in Scotland, eventually becoming a fixture of the London folk scene in the early 1960's. Often linked with the late British musician Nick Drake, John's first commercial success came about in 1973 with the release of what many consider to be a defining British folk album Solid Air, the title track written for & dedicated to Drake.
John developed a distinct guitar sound throughout his work in the '70's, playing an acoustic guitar through various effects including a fuzzbox, phase shifter and echoplex... the analog predecessor of today's digital delay effects. Many of today's popular guitarists, including U2's The Edge and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour can attribute their technique and sound to these early works of Martyn. As a songwriter, Martyn penned many classics, including May You Never, a song later recorded by Eric Clapton, that version hitting the charts. His voice could alternate between a soft, sweet, melodious folkie tone to a powerful growl. Although his work never launched him into superstar status, he was a revered and respected cult figure for nearly forty years.
About ten years ago, John Martyn spent nearly a month living in the upcountry area of Maui, staying with Maui's master woodworker and furniture-maker Peter Naramore. While on the island, John performed at impromptu gatherings of small groups of friends & performed a public show at Cassanova Restaurant in Makawao. A notorious hard-drinker and difficult character, John reportedly soon wore out his welcome and returned to his home base in the UK where he continued to perform and record.
Below is a clip of John performing May You Never back from 1973. I hope that as he laid his head down for the last time, there was a hand for him to hold.