In Memory of Jesse Winchester

Jesse Winchester May 17, 1944 - April  11, 2014

Jesse Winchester
May 17, 1944 – April 11, 2014

I never met Jesse.? I never spoke with him.? I never saw one of his concerts.? In fact, I did not even know his name until I wanted to quote some of the lyrics from a beautifully written and poignant song recorded a few decades ago by Jennifer Warnes, entitled “You Remember Me.” (Click to listen to it.) ? It is about her former lover who became a priest (or a nun, if sung by a man).? It was perfect for my book, Foul Shot, but I knew it was copyrighted material and I would need to obtain permission.? While there are no set rules on this, it can cost thousands to quote a few lines of some rock songs and I wanted to use several verses of “You Remember Me.”? I found that Jesse had written it and contacted him by email.? I explained that I was self-published and did not have a big budget (any, really), but loved the song.? He gave me full permission, gratis, writing, “You have my permission to quote from ‘You Remember Me’ in your book. Thank you for asking, congratulations and good luck with the new publication.”? He requested nothing in return.? I did cite his generosity in my dedication and sent him a copy.? He wrote back that he had received it on February 26, 2014.? He thanked me for it and for mentioning him in the dedication.? “It looks very readable,” he wrote.? It was the same month that he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.? He died just weeks later.? Although I doubt that he had an opportunity to read Foul Shot, I have a faint hope that he did and liked how I used his song.

Although not so famous as a singer outside of his loyal folk music followers, Jesse’s songs were recorded by Nicolette Larson, the Weather Girls, Michael Martin Murphey, Reba McIntyre, Wynonna Judd, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Rush, Ted Hawkins, The Everly Brothers, Patti Page, Ronnie Hawkins, Elvis Costello, Alex Taylor, and many more, as well as Jennifer Warnes.? In fact, Bob Dylan once said of Jesse, ?You can?t talk about the best songwriters and not include him.?? As is often the case, the recorders of his songs made his works more famous than Jesse was.

There are many ways to judge people.? Without personal contact, we oft judge them by less than reliable sources.? I had minimal contact, only email, with Jesse, but feel I have some validity in saying that Jesse was not only a great songwriter, but a decent person.? In all of our correspondence, he was friendly and gracious.? He was generous in allowing me to quote his song with no remuneration.? He even took time to write a kind note when he received my book, although I am sure it really held little interest for him at that point.? “Your new book arrived – thank you again.? And I appreciate the nice reference . . . . Good luck with your new baby.” ? I judge people by their actions and Jesse’s were generous, indeed.? Thank you, Jesse, you were a kind and generous soul.? Your songs will continue to touch our hearts for many years.? And, come spring, another cherry blossom tree will be planted in your memory.

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