Folk guitarist Bert Jansch dies

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The Independent Culture

Folk guitarist Bert Jansch, an influence and inspiration for a generation of rock guitarists, has died at the age of 67.

The Scottish musician was a founding member of the group Pentangle with whom he gave his last public performance in August when they reformed.

Jansch was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and had to cancel some recent shows due to illness.

He died in the early hours of this morning in a north London hospice, his spokesman said.

He was a prominent figure in the folk revival of the 1960s and was honoured at the BBC Folk Awards with a lifetime achievement award.

But his reputation as a virtuoso guitarist extended well beyond the folk circuit and he has often been cited as an influence by musicians such as Johnny Marr and Bernard Butler. Both guitarists have shared a stage with him and performed on his Crimson Moon album.

One of his final recording sessions was with Pete Doherty.

He has been in hospital for a number of weeks after his health deteriorated shortly after his August 1 gig with Pentangle at London's Royal Festival Hall.

The guitarist's spokesman, Mick Houghton, who first saw Jansch perform in the late 1960s, said: "I don't know anyone who had less of a sense of celebrity. He was always very self-effacing and critical adulation was completely irrelevant to him."

The Glasgow-born musician lived in north London with his wife, Lauren.

Jansch was held in esteem by figures such as Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Canadian star Neil Young, with whom he toured earlier this year.

Young has compared him to Jimi Hendrix for his ability and innovative playing.

"As much of a great guitar player as Jimi was, Bert Jansch is the same thing for acoustic guitar - and my favourite," he has said.

Jansch hitched to London in the early 1960s to make a go of his career and his debut self-titled album in 1965 was famously recorded on loaned instruments using a reel-to-reel tape deck.

It included his powerful, and best-known, song Needle Of Death, inspired by the death of a friend.

He released further albums before forming Pentangle in 1967 with John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox.

Following the group's split in 1973, he continued as a solo performer as well as forming another group Conundrum and forming a duo with Martin Jenkins.

Jansch - who was a heavy drinker until he gave up in the late 1980s - also performed with various line-ups of the reformed Pentangle over the years and briefly ran his own guitar shop.

His most recent album was Black Swan in 2006.

Radio 2 folk show presenter Mike Harding was among those paying tribute to Jansch today.

He said: "Bert Jansch was one of the greats of the folk world, and easily one of the most influential musicians of his generation.

"In person he was a quiet and gentle man, but when he picked up his guitar he was the centre of everyone's attention. He was a true original."

Harding's show tonight will contain a tribute to the musician.

Singer Eddi Reader called him "a gentle, gentle gentleman". In a message on Twitter she said: "God speed, darlin' Bert - get us on the guest list."

Marr called Jansch "a leader of his generation".

"He really was the king of the beatnik troubadours and no one ever tried to usurp that," the former Smiths guitarist told BBC 6 Music.

"As a person he exuded a secret wisdom. Getting to play with him was an absolute privilege."

Blur guitarist Graham Coxon said: "Bert Jansch was a flawless guitar player and from my experience a 'what you see is what you get', no frills, staunch fellow with nothing to prove to anyone.

"He was top of the pile whether he thought so or not."