December 16 – It was as if New Hampshire folk singer Bill Staines had unwittingly written his own goodbye.
After thanking his family for their love and support, the 74-year-old revealed in a Facebook post in late November that aggressive prostate cancer had invaded his body and would stop happening and spinning. from December.
“This old horse is tired. It’s time to move on,” he wrote.
Weeks later, on December 5, Staines was gone, his death catching fans and friends alike.
“He was so warm and very sympathetic, and I was in awe of him,” said Kate McNally, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s Folk Show. “I had a hard time not being totally struck by the star (when he entered the studio.)
“Even though he wasn’t born in New Hampshire, New Hampshire claims it,” McNally said. “He’s a New Hampshire gem, as much as the maple syrup and the old man on the mountain. He’s up there with things we’ll always enjoy here.”
The widely traveled musician, who was born in Medford, Massachusetts, and later lived in Rollinsford, has traveled countless miles across the country collecting and sharing stories spanning more than half a century. His songs recounted the time spent in Alaska, Colorado and Wyoming, among others.
He’s shared the journey everywhere, from his hometown concerts to the soundtrack of HBO’s award-winning HBO’s “Deadwood” series to the ever-definitive group singing book, “Rise Up Singing,” by Annie Patterson and Peter Blood. His song lyrics are featured in the “Unity” category, alongside Pete Seeger.
Over 25 albums, Staines embodied a relationship between all that belied his reach and his legacy across the country. This is why Yankee magazine in 2015 included him in their “80 Gifts New England Gave America” and why his song lyrics, especially “A Place in the Choir,” are still sung. in summer camps and in primary school music programs.
This song was also the inspiration behind “All God’s Critters”, a children’s book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2009.
Deb McWethy, president of Peterborough Folk Music and a key figure in keeping folk alive on the stages of the Monadnock area, first met Staines at Folkway, a popular stop on the East Coast folk tour, when she was booking performances. acts for the place around 1979.
“I was blown away and spoke to him afterward. He was a very humble and discreet person who was always available… he could talk to you all day,” she laughs.
McWethy chokes on him as he describes what ended up being his friend’s last Peterborough folk music performance.
“We were very lucky to bring him to Harrisville last August (at the Spinning Room). Bill was happiest when the room was full of audience members and his fans, all singing along to the choruses,” says- she. “He just beamed. He loved it.”
His music mixes people and landscapes. One of his flagship songs, “River”, is a slice of Americana.
Other signature songs include “A Place in the Choir” (also a 2009 book published by Simon and Schuster, with illustrations by Kadir Nelson), “Wild, Wild Heart” and “Yellowstone Winds”.
“The Roseville Fair” is one of McNally’s favorites. She first heard it when Nancy Griffith covered the song at a concert.
“It took me a while to learn that it actually wasn’t her song, and that (Staines) had written so many more that were really, really popular,” she said. “The breadth of his work has touched many hearts. Folk is for all people.”
Staines’ wife of 45 years, Karen, started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe on her behalf shortly after learning of her diagnosis. She included a note from the musician:
“This disease prevents me from touring and I hope to overcome it – but the drugs are expensive. Any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated and will be used in this battle.”
The site, which also announced Staines’ death, continues to generate donations and keepsakes.
On December 10, Karen Staines released a memo saying the funds will go towards her last expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, 914 donations totaled over $ 73,000.