Remembering Leon Redbone

August 26, 1949 – May 30, 2019

 

A tribute to the unique singer and guitarist

Singer and guitarist Leon Redbone passed away on May 30, 2019 at the age of 69 although his website claimed that he was 127!

The claim made some sense since, if he had been born in 1892, he would have been a performer before the 1920s.

Born Dickran Gobalian on August 26, 1949 in Nicosia, Cyprus, he was secretive about his origins, moving to Canada in the mid-1960s and changing his name to Leon Redbone.

Self-taught, he was performing as a singer-guitarist in Toronto by the late 1960s, began recording in 1975 and, from the start, played his own respectful yet unique versions of songs from the 1910s, 20s and ‘30s purely by ear.

Redbone, who had a lazy style, a deep voice, quiet fluency on the guitar, a cool image (always wearing sunglasses and a Panama hat), and the ability to make vintage songs sound contemporary without moving far from the melody and the lyrics, fit into his own musical category.

At his prime, he was a regular on television; he remained a popular performer until worsening health forced his retirement in 2015.

Here is Leon Redbone performing “Shine On Harvest Moon” with a group that includes cornetist Scott Black.

-Scott Yanow

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