Flatpicking warrior Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson passed away yesterday, following colon surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, near his home in Winston-Salem, North Caroline, reports the New York Times. He was 89-years-young. Blind since he was a toddler, Watson like to say that he would’ve been just as happy as an auto mechanic, had he not lost his sight. Which speaks of the method in which he wrote songs – a master of traditional mountain melodies and interpretations; Watson loved to see old sentiments dusted off and cruise.
He was respected widely for it, from the hills of North Carolina from which he was spawned and resided to the office of the president, where in 1997, he received the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton, Clinton commenting that “there may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn’t at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson.”
When he did sing and play his own tunes, they were usually dual credited, as with the handful of records he cut with his son, Merle Watson, or this endearing gem co-written with his wife of six decades, Rosa Lee Watson, dubbed “Your Long Journey.” A fitting eulogy of sorts, long before he passed, the first verse squeezes from the get-go. You may remember it from the contemporary lens of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. But this is the real deal. R.I.P. Mr. Watson.
God’s given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pangs of grief tug at my heart