English folk singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso Michael Chapman has died at the age of 80. The news was first announced on Chapman’s Instagram. “It is with regret and indescribable sadness that we must tell all of his friends that Michael Chapman died earlier today at home,” his family wrote. “Please raise a glass or two to a gentleman, a musician, a husband, a force of nature, a legend and the most fully qualified survivor.” No cause of death was disclosed.
Born in Hunslet, Leeds, in 1941, Chapman studied and later taught photography and life drawing, playing in local jazz bands while working as an art teacher. He taught himself how to play the guitar by listening to albums by other artists, citing Lonnie Donegan, Django Reinhardt, and Big Bill Broonzy as influences.
After playing on the London and Cornwall folk music circuits in the late ’60s, Chapman released his debut album, Rainmaker, in 1969. “I had an art college education and on a rainy night in 1966 I went into a pub in Cornwall, but I couldn’t afford to pay to go in,” reads a statement on his website. “So I said, I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to stay outside in the rain, I’ll play guitar for half an hour for you. They offered me a job for the rest of the summer and I’ve been at it ever since.” He issued over 40 full-length albums across his career, exploring roots music, especially blues and folk, while moving between acoustic and electric, instrumental and sung.
In 2017, Chapman released the album 50, which was produced by Steve Gunn, who also worked on Chapman’s final studio album, 2019’s True North. Artists including Elton John, Thurston Moore, Ryley Walker, and Meg Baird have credited him as an influence.