Most people who love music have an artist they hold above all others. Through the years, for me, that’s become Chris Whitley. An American singer, songwriter and startlingly talented guitar player, he was a recording artist for 15 years, first with Sony then independently. From 1990 to 1996 he released three records, and then from 1998 through 2005 he released a record a year on independent labels. He died of lung cancer in November 2005 at the age of 45, and two more studio recordings he was involved with came out after that. The guy was brilliant and prolific. He had, at best, a cult following.
I saw him, I dunno, six times? The first was in the summer of 1991, when he played an afternoon show on a stage set up between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Here he is doing a cover of a Robert Johnson song:
I saw him play again in Toronto at the Phoenix, maybe twice there, and at the El Mocambo, The Big Bop and Lee’s Palace. He was never less than amazing. His music got in my blood and there it’s stayed.
Here’s another sample:
A couple of American filmmakers are raising funds for a documentary on Whitley. Go here to check out the Kickstarter page and the trailer for the film. They’ve reached their goal, so they’re going to move forward. If you like what you see and hear and feel like contributing, go for it. But more than that, I welcome you to go looking for his music.
One of the coolest things about Whitley is that he had a daughter, named Trixie. She’s now a singer and songwriter, recording music and singing in the Daniel Lanois project Black Dub.
Check her out: