Loved his stuff from the first time I ever saw it, and that was a long, long time ago. Those of us who loved the old stuff, the kind of stuff our grandparents and parents would have loved, took naturally to Leon Redbone. He wasn’t very good at singing, but that did not stop him. Maybe he picked his genre because it was never about glorious sounds. It was about songs that had messages.
And Leon Redbone was about nothing but messages. From the past, to be sure, but from the present, too. From early Saturday Night Live appearances to folk stage stuff and on to bigger and smaller things later, he was as authentic to the character he created as one could ever be.
He never dropped the mask, the mike, the guitar, anything. He just kept on plucking along on a bunch of songs that would have been all but lost without him. Hard to get a straight answer from the man about anything. Or maybe they were all straight answers and we just didn’t recognize them.
Here is what he said on his own passing, the New York Daily News lifted from his website:
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that early this morning, May 30th 2019, Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127,” reads the obituary.
“He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover, and a simple tip of his hat. He’s interested to see what Blind Blake, Emmett, and Jelly Roll have been up to in his absence, and has plans for a rousing sing along number with Sári Barabás. An eternity of pouring through texts in the Library of Ashurbanipal will be a welcome repose, perhaps followed by a shot or two of whiskey with Lee Morse, and some long overdue discussions with his favorite Uncle, Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites. To his fans, friends, and loving family who have already been missing him so in this realm he says, “Oh behave yourselves. Thank you…. and good evening everybody.”
Off he goes to the great Tin Pan Alley in the sky, to play with the old friends who preceded him by many decades.
He was NOT 127 years old.