Jesse Winchester, an American singer-songwriter who moved to Montreal in the 1960s to dodge the Vietnam War draft, died in his sleep Friday morning at the age of 69 after a lengthy illness.
'He was just a sweet, kind, super impressive human being,' - Matt Large, Montreal Folk Music Festival organizer
Born in Louisiana and raised in Tennessee, Winchester developed his musical talent while living in Montreal. He often played at a hotel in Morin Heights, Que., run by several Tennessee transplants during the 1970s.
"We got to present him in Montreal four times since 2006. I looked forward to him visiting and coming back every time. It was kind of like an uncle coming to visit," said Matt Large, organizer of the Montreal Folk Music Festival.
"He was just a sweet, kind, super impressive human being."
Winchester released several albums in the 70s, but was unable to tour in the United States.
"He made some tough choices in his life and lived with the consequence. Moving up to Canada probably put a damper on the amount of success and notoriety he achieved," Large said.
Since he couldn't tour south of the border, Winchester spent most of his time writing songs which were recorded by artists such as Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Reba McEntire and The Everly Brothers.
"When you listen to a Jesse Winchester song, in its final analysis, you have someone telling you a story. Jesse knew how to tell that story," Large said.
"He was an amazing juxtaposition of grace, gentility, gentlessness — at the same time, some mighty powerful lyrics in a mighty powerful man."
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter granted him amnesty in the late 1970s, allowing Winchester to return to his home country to tour. However, the accomplished and revered country, roots and folk musician only moved back to the United States in 2002, after spending many years in Canada.
According to his official Facebook page, he had been receiving hospice care at his home in Virginia. He had had been battling cancer of the esophagus.
Last month, he cancelled several tour dates due to illness.