Last week through all the sadness over Amy Winehouse's untimely death another great singer/songwriter left this world, too. Bill Morrissey was only 59 and he leaves behind an awful lot of awful good music. I've got to say, of the two, I'll miss him more.
The first time I saw him was at Passim in Cambridge some time in the late 1980s. It was incredible to me that this slight, shy man could make the kind of music he could. His voice was raspy, broken, but so filled with poignance -- a perfect accompaniment to his lyrics. And, oh, those lyrics. His lyrics were just these stunning little glimpses into the lives of the people I, for one, had grown up around. Like Bill I grew up in a rural small town, a Catholic kid with dreams beyond the town limits. So many times, when I listened to the CDs of his music that I bought (actually I think it was tapes back then) I'd think "I know these people, how can we know the same people?" Nobody understood human vulnerability like Bill.
Later, when I was living in Marblehead and spending every Friday night at the me and thee Coffeehouse, I got to see him again -- several times. He was funny and witty and surprisingly warm, too. He was a drinker -- who wasn't back in the day? That's, well, it's part of the way these things seem to work. You've got to go through some bad stuff to bring the good stuff out it seems. He was one of the singer/songwriters that inspired me when I was writing The Old Mermaid's Tale and, in the acknowledgments I thanked him along with Jack Hardy and Garnet Rogers and the rest of those wonderful artists.
So Bill is gone and, though people will still be able to get to know him through the songs, that sly, dry, deadpan humor is gone. The video below was shot at the me and thee a few years back. The song is a beautiful one, about a tired wife who wants to remember what it was like to be a girl again. Typically, it is just beautiful.
And this song, Handsome Molly, is one of my favorite of his - "I park my cab on Water St. waiting for a fare, watching young girls in their first heels step like colts across the square..." My God, how his eyes saw things:
Garnet Rogers wrote a lovely tribute to his friend on Facebook: Bill In it he mentions the beautiful tribute Russell Brand wrote for Amy Winehouse which I posted on my Facebook page earlier this week. Heaven has a lot of great musicians up there -- now it has 2 more.
Thanks for all the music, Bill. You'll be missed.
Update: This is the song I was trying to find earlier --this is a real heart-breaker...