It is with great sadness that I report that Johnny Winter has died at age 70. He passed away yesterday, Wednesda y, July 16 in a hotel room in Zurich. There are no details about the cause of death other than it appears to be a medically related incident. Rick Derringer's wife, who first broke the news on Facebook, said that he had been in poor health and was very frail.
He had been working on a new album recently, with Eric Clapton and Ben Harper as guests. It is due to be released September 2. A boxed collection of his hwork was released this year, covering his career from the 60's until now and including tributes from other artists he has influenced. That set is going to be even more valuable now that we know that there will be no more new work after this final album is released. What a sad thought that is.
I remember the first time I saw Johnny Winter. I was just a teenager at the time and it was 1970. It was an outdoor concert and he had these huge sunglasses to protect his eyes and this amazing pure white avalanche of hair. I was fascinated by his appearance but when he started to play my jaw dropped. I had never heard anything like him in my life.
My husband and I were privileged to see him again about four years ago at another outdoor festival and I still had not heard anything like him in my life.
The Chicago Tribune quoted an interview in the New York Times with Winter earlier this year, in which he said,
"I think about legacy a lot," he said. "Hopefully at the end of the day they say I was a good bluesman. That's all I want."
You were a great bluesman, Johnny. Everyone is going to say it. And your music is going to keep you immortal here. I hope that you get to play on, wherever in the afterlife you are.