Jesse Winchester, the esteemed singer-songwriter who became a symbol of the anti-war movement when he moved to Canada to escape the draft in the Sixties, died April 11th from bladder cancer. Winchester, who was living in Virginia when he died, was 69.
While never as well known as peers like James Taylor and Jackson Browne, Winchester wrote some of the defining singer-songwriter tracks of the seventies — evocations of American and Southern life like “Yankee Lady,” “Biloxi,” “Mississippi You’re on My Mind” and “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” that ached with feelings of loss for the country he decided he had to leave. The songs gained him a cult following and critical respect, and were covered by everyone from George Strait to Tim Hardin. Winchester was considered such a formidable songwriter that a 2012 tribute album, Quiet About It, featured versions of his songs by Taylor, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, and Vince Gill, among others.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1944, Winchester started playing music in Memphis, where his family later relocated. In 1967, he received a draft induction letter, but instead of showing up, he took a plane to Montreal. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone in 1977. He arrived in Canada with only $300 and no connections, but settled into a new life, joining a local band and finally writing his own material. (Rolling Stone)