Singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey, 59, died on July 23, but his death hasn’t received the same attention as that of Amy Winehouse on the same day. Based in the northeastern state of New Hampshire, Morrissey was well known to folk music fans, releasing 10 studio albums and earning two Grammy nominations. One of Bill Morrissey’s Grammy nominations came for his 1999 album “Songs of Mississippi John Hurt.”
Morrissey became a professional musician at a young age. He grew up studying the great folk singers and songwriters of the 1960s. He also spent time working in restaurants and as a commercial fisherman, no doubt studying his co-workers as he went about his business, and later turning their quirks and behaviors into song. Songs about old mill towns and the people who populated them was a specialty of his. “Small Town On The River” is one example.
Morrissey’s own life was as difficult as those of the characters in his songs. He battled alcoholism, depression, and was eventually diagnosed as bipolar. And, as he wrote on his website, “I’m on medication for depression, but sometimes the depression is stronger than the medication.” He persevered, however, and, on good days, continued to write and perform.
Morrissey released “Something I Saw, or Thought I Saw” in 2001, featuring songs written soon after his second divorce. Many critics compared it to Richard and Linda Thompson’s break-up album “Shoot Out The Lights,” as both deal with fractured relationships. “Birches” is one of Bill Morrissey’s best-loved songs. It about the middle of a marriage, telling the tale of a love that’s still strong, but perhaps not burning as bright as it once did.
Morrissey died while on tour, which is likely when most performers would prefer the inevitable to happen. In addition to his 10 solo CDs, Morrissey and his good friend Greg Brown released a Grammy-nominated duo CD. He also wrote a well-received novel called “Edson,” and had just completed a second novel at the time of his death. If you’d like to find out more about Bill Morrissey, his songs and his books, visit his website: Bill Morrissey.net.