Emitt Rhodes 1950-2020
Fairport enthusiasts will be saddened to learn of the passing, on July 19th (exactly a week after Judy Dyble) of Emitt Rhodes, the American singer-songwriter who penned the first song - ‘Time Will Show the Wiser’ - on the first Fairport Convention album. There was little about it in the U.K. media apart from a Guardian obituary. I only found out early in September while Googling ‘Emitt Rhodes news.’
He should have been much more famous. While still at high school in the 1960s, he played drums for a band called The Palace Guard, all military uniforms and psychedelia! By 1966, when still only 16, he had formed The Merry Go Round. He played guitar and other instruments, and became their main songwriter. He’s often been compared, as a songwriter, to Paul McCartney. (In fact, I once heard McCartney referred to as ‘The poor man’s Emitt Rhodes’!)
By the early 70s, he had gone solo, and fell foul of a record contract which required six albums in three years. Bearing in mind that he wrote and performed all the songs, played all the instruments AND produced the albums at home, he understandably found this quite impossible to fulfill. He was sued by Dunhill Records for $250,000 and his royalties were withheld.
By 1974, he had pretty much vanished as a performer, preferring to concentrate on record production.
Then, in 2016, a new Emitt Rhodes album was released - ‘Rainbow Ends’. The Washington Post said of it; ‘In a better world, it would have topped the charts in 1978 or so.’ And it really is a beauty. The grizzled, bearded face on the cd cover belies the youthful voice coming out of your speakers. If you haven’t heard it, you should look it up; particularly the final song, ‘Rainbow Ends’, a man of advancing years singing touchingly about how all he wants now is peace, warmth, comfort, to be with those he loves and - poignantly - to be loved.
I hope he’s now found that peace. My wife Jacqui says it’s a song that melts her heart, and if you listen to it, I think you’ll agree.
We should have heard much more from him over the years. May he rest in peace.
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