Chicago folk and soul singer-songwriter Terry Callier died yesterday at the age of 67 after a long illness. Callier was something of a childhood prodigy and was signed by Chess Records at 17. He performed regularly in the Windy City, recording for various record labels and living mostly in obscurity. His watershed moment came while working as a computer programmer at the University of Chicago when he appeared on Beth Orton’s Best Bit EP in 1997 and released his album Timepeace in 1998, which won the United Nations’ Time For Peace award for outstanding artistic achievement contributing to world peace.
Callier, who was blessed with a smooth, soulful voice and a knack for crafting simple, delicate acoustic guitar based songs, went on to record a slew of collaborations including 4 Hero’s “The Day of the Greys” in 2001 and Kyoto Jazz Massive’s “Deep in Your Mind” in 2002. Callier toured and recorded many albums during his career, but his vocals on Massive Attack’s dark and hauntingly intense “Live With Me” from 2006’s Collected is perhaps the song he will always be known for.
In 1996 Callier told the Chicago Sun-Times, “People respond to me because I’m a throwback to an older tradition that believed you should do more than sing a song for an audience, that you should make people feel something. You can make accessible music and still sing about love and peace and truth and life and death. In the end, those are the only things that matter.”
Gilles Peterson tweeted today “shocked by the news of Terry Callier’s passing… a pioneer and folk hero for so many of us… a true loss to music R.I.P.”
Beth Orton also paid her respects to Callier on Twitter: “This was one of the best nights of my life. Such a privilege and joy- RIP dear Terry Callier.” She the video below to their duet of “Dolphins” at the Jazz Cafe.