Monday, June 8, 2009

Kenny Rankin, 1940-2009. R.I.P.

Folk-jazz singer Kenny Rankin died of lung cancer yesterday. He was 69.

I did not know he was ill. I had really wanted to see one of his shows. He was playing some gigs at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York back in November 2006 but I was otherwise engaged and did not get to go. The story of my life. I could kick myself.

Oh well, at least we have YouTube. Here are a couple of his early solo performances. They are simultaneously gentle and powerful. The first song is called "Dolphins" which was written by Fred Neil (who also wrote "Everybody's Talkin'" which became a hit for Harry Nilsson.) "Dolphins" has also been covered by the likes of Tim Buckley and Richie Havens. Rankin's arrangement is different from everyone else but stands well on its own. The second song is a song he wrote called "Peaceful." It would later become a hit for Helen Reddy.

Rankin might be best remembered for his renditions of two Beatles songs - "Penny Lane" and "Blackbird." Paul McCartney was so impressed with Rankin's interpretation of "Blackbird" that he requested he sing the song when he and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriter' Hall of Fame in 1987. Now, if that isn't a testament to his musicianship then nothing is.

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