A good man has died. You can read about Utah Phillips, who influenced several generations of singers and activists, by clicking through to the link above, which goes to his official website. Or you can look at his Wikipedia entry, which as far as I can tell is quite accurate.The obituary and stories will tell you a lot, but as always in such circumstances they can’t capture the full essence of a life.
I met him in Vermont, when he was living in a reconditioned train caboose next to the recording studio, known as The Barn, where he and many other people (including me) recorded their music. Those days are a bit, uh, blurry — but I’ll never forget his humor and kindness.
When I moved to California, I helped put together what remains one of my most memorable evenings — a living room concert at the Saratoga home of Tom and Carol Lustenader. He came down from Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he’d settled later in life, and regaled us with stories and songs. I hadn’t seen him in more than 20 years at that point, but as in the old cliche we seemed to pick up our conversation pretty much where we’d left off back in Vermont.
Although he sang wonderful songs, his most indelible piece of work is unquestionably his funniest. Have a listen to Moose Turd Pie (MP3), and you’ll have a sense of this man and his times.
Rest in peace.