Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

December 6, 2007

singer-songwriter Jim Ford passes away, 11/2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 4:27 pm

According to the Bear Family Records website, acclaimed singer-songwriter JIM FORD was found dead at his California home in late November 2007. A poet of the first order who chose songwriting as his art-form, Ford only recently re-appeared on the music scene after decades of absence. A better obituary than I could ever write was penned by L-P Anderson at Bear Family’s website. I can’t directly link to it, so I’ll copy it here:

Less than a year after Bear Family’s highly successful and critically acclaimed Jim Ford CD, ‘Sounds Of Our Time’, we’re faced with the sad and tragic news that the prolific singer/songwriter has left life on earth behind. Early in the evening of Sunday, November 18th 2007 Jim was found dead in his home by the Fort Bragg Sheriff’s department. The open lid of Ford’s beloved Peugeot parked in the rain outside caused neighbours to suspect something had gone wrong. We don’t know what caused his death, but an autopsy is being carried out. James Henry Ford was the composer of Aretha Franklin’s Niky Hoeky and Bobby Womack’s Harry Hippie. He was Sly Stone’s friend and a big influence on Nick Lowe. In 1969 Jim Ford blended the sounds of gritty R&B with down-home country on the now legendary album, ‘ Harlan County ‘. Its music occupies the land where R&B meets country, Memphis and Nashville meet Louisiana , and the Mississippi Delta meets Appalachia . Jim Ford had a tremendous impact on everyone who crossed his path. He is featured on Sly & The Family Stone’s classic There’s A Riot Going On and during a short stint in London 1971 he helped ignite what would later be known as the UK pub rock scene. In the ‘80s, Jim Ford disappeared into a haze of drug abuse and erratic behaviour.Many tried to find Jim Ford, but no one succeeded until April 2006 when he was tracked down to a trailer park in Mendocino County , California . In the liner notes to ‘Sounds Of Our Time’, Jim finally told his full and almost incomprehensible story. In his modest mobile home we found master tapes galore spread out over the floor. Bear Family assembled a compilation, ‘Sounds Of Our Time’, and finally Jim Ford got his long overdue recognition. Jim Ford didn’t lead a very glamorous life when we first encountered him, but money from the first Bear Family CD helped to improve his financial situation. Just days before his death we advanced Jim money for our upcoming ‘Point Of No Return’ compilation.

The success of ‘Sounds Of Our Time’ also made the idea of recording new material possible. At times there was talk of using Jim Dickinson as producer and James Burton volunteered to play guitar. A charity gig for Jim was to take place in London , U.K. on 18th May 2008 . Nick Lowe was supposed to perform together with Jim Ford in person. Sadly we won’t get to see or hear any of this now.

Jim Ford has been described as otherworldly, and his charisma, humour and musical talents definitely were. Jim Ford’s legacy will live on. Many Jim Ford projects are under construction and no devotee will be left disappointed. We aim to preserve his music and recordings for generations to come.

Jim Ford will be missed by many. Our thoughts are especially with Merrily Pence, who patiently stood at Jim’s side for the last fifteen years, and Movita Castenada who lived together with Jim in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jim Ford was stepfather to Movita and Marlon Brando’s two children, Miko & Rebecca.

L-P Anderson


In October, I reviewed Jim’s new album SOUNDS OF OUR TIME for the upcoming issue of UGLY THINGS magazine, which should appear in a few months. I couldn’t say much in 300 words, but here is that review as it will appear in UT:

JIM FORD–“The Sounds of Our Time” (Bear Family, Germany)

       This fascinating Bear Family release contains Kentucky-born Ford’s legendary 1969 “Harlan Countyalbum, various late 60’s/early 70’s 45s, and some amazing unreleased tunes.  Harlan County,” released in 1969 on White Whale’s Sundown subsidiary, received little promotion and was saddled with an unattractive cover. The album resembles other eccentric Southern R&B-country mixes such as Dale Hawkins’s L.A., Memphis, and Tyler,  Texas album, Jim Dickinson’s Dixie Fried,  and Tony Joe White’s Monument-label output. The song “Harlan County” is a wonderfully sarcastic R&B/gospel stomper that would have been the anthem of every small-town outcast had it been heard widely at the time. The rest of the album combines a rich variety of influences, both roots-based and pop-based, in the eclectic, unexpected way one associates with a Doug Sahm or a Van Morrison (Ford calls his style “country funk.”), though the result sounds nothing like either. The slow and menacing fuzz-punk take on “Spoonful” is also an instant classic.     Most songs are originals, and with his insightful comments on life and society and relationships, the haunting melodies and chord progressions, and the perfectly-chosen details and turns of phrase, it’s not hard to see why Ford’s songs have been widely covered (he once wrote an entire album for The Temptations!).The second half of the CD contains a handful of obscure 45’s as well as many country and soul-flavored demos that are sparse and highlight Ford’s aching soulful voice and well-crafted songs. The duet with Bobby Womack, “Sounds of Our Time,” should stop any listener in his/her tracks–it’s so incredibly powerful and beautiful, I can compare it only to the first time I heard James Carr’s “At The Dark End of the Street.” I was speechless. Buy this CD immediately! Besides, how many other male artists’ albums feature their own Playboy pictorials?                                                                                                     –Bill Shute


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