Bluegrass loses legend Ralph Stanley and his ‘God-given voice’


Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley has died in the same home where he was born and raised 89 years ago. His grandson, Nathan Stanley, announced the news on Facebook (via Inquisitr):

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The banjoist and singer – whose voice was prominent in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? – recorded more than 1,300 songs including standards like Man of Constant Sorrow over more than six decades.

“When it comes to Ralph Stanley’s voice, there has only ever been the one, and there will be no replacements. Stanley’s voice has been called ‘a force of nature,’ ‘otherworldly,’ ‘elemental,’ ‘eerie.’ Try to describe it and you inevitably tumble into a deep mountain mine of contradictory clichés. Trying to capture its singular tone in a fresh way risks foolishness. (‘Like a woodwind crossed with a coonhound, turned up to eleven’ is a note I just jotted down, before scratching it out.)” (via David Cantwell in the New Yorker)

As a child, he was known as “the boy with the hundred-year-old voice.” And it was music that spared him a lifetime in the mines and sawmills. He toured and played almost up to his death.

“My advice would be, always be yourself,” he said in an interview this January. “Never try to copy anybody else’s sound. Come up with your own style of music and work hard at it.”

RIP Mr. Stanley. Your ‘O Death’ has greater depths than ever before:

One comment to “Bluegrass loses legend Ralph Stanley and his ‘God-given voice’”
  1. Great advice from the old guy, and what else can anyone say, he had a voice that transcended culture and time.

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