Bill Morrissey, In Memoriam

This week on Art of the Song:

While visiting Tamworth, NH, around the third anniversary of Bill Morrissey’s passing, we decided to visit his gravesite. The next day, we heard Cormac McCarthy perform a co-write with Bill, and we had the pleasure of meeting Bill’s mother. To honor his amazing legacy, we re-broadcast this 2005 interview.

About the artist:

Bill Morrissey (November 25, 1951 – July 23, 2011) was an American folk singer/songwriter from New Hampshire. Many of his songs reflect the harsh realities of life in crumbling New England mill towns.

Morrissey was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He seems to have found his craft and his own voice in the American country blues of Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson, the pure country of Hank Williams, the Kansas City jazz of Count Basie and Lester Young, and the New York folk songwriters of the 1960s. His eponymous (i.e., self-titled) first album released in 1984 on the Reckless label, and then re-recorded for the Philo label, includes the song “Small Town on the River”, a song about a small town in New Hampshire after the mill closes.

Over the course of his long career, two of Morrissey’s twelve albums received Grammy nominations and several earned 4-star reviews in Rolling Stone. Stephen Holden, for the New York Times, wrote, “Mr. Morrissey’s songs have the force of poetry…a terseness, precision of detail and a tone of laconic understatement that relate his lyrics to the stories of writers like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. He is also the author of the novel Edson (Random House/Alfred A. Knopf 1996) and the recently completed Imaginary Runner.

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