Jimmy LaFave 1955-2017 R.I.P.

Austin singer-songwriter was only 61. Watch some incredibly moving live clips, below.

By Fred Mills

Beloved Americana artist Jimmy LaFave passed away earlier this week (May 21) at his home in Austin following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 61. According to the Austin Chronicle, the illness was “a type of sarcoma that primarily affected his lungs [which] was largely kept secret until recently… Last month, news broke that LaFave’s family had finally engaged hospice care.”

Yet just a few days before his death, LaFave appeared at a sold-out concert at Austin’s Paramount Theatre that featured his music done by Christine Albert, Sarah Lee Guthrie, John Fullbright, Shinyribs, Butch Hancock, and Ruthie Foster, among others. LaFave himself came out for part of the finale in a wheelchair and hooked up to oxygen.

LaFave grew up in Texas, later moving to Oklahoma where he pioneered a regional sound dubbed “red dirt music.” Following a relocation to Austin, he became a prolific songwriter and performer, touring frequently issuing numerous critically acclaimed albums. Among his key influences were Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan (he even put together a touring Guthrie tribute show in 2003).

Anyone who ever saw LaFave in concert came away deeply moved, not only by his inherent tunefulness and ability to conjure lyrical images frequently as vivid as those by his influences, but by the otherworldly aura he projected, one that reassured and brought comfort to the human spirit.

I’ll never forget seeing him live in Tucson and getting to meet him after the show: He seemed humbled by the fans’ adulation and adoration, yet relaxed and genial, ready to engage. Below, watch some choice LaFave clips – including a version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” as well as a somewhat shaky audience recording  fo the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” that still somehow seems… perfectly appropriate. Also included is a clip from one of his final concerts, this past April at Threadgills in Austin, in which he does Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me When You Go” that reportedlybrought the audience – which knew he only had a little time left – to tears. R.I.P., Jimmy.

One thought on “Jimmy LaFave 1955-2017 R.I.P.

  1. EThom

    A lovely remembrance, Fred. This is a serious loss on every level. Jimmy was like few singer-songwriters in his ability to inject real soul into everything he did.

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