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Songwriter Jesse Winchester Dead at 69

Jesse Winchester
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Songwriter Jesse Winchester, who had a number of songs recorded by country stars like ACM Entertainer of the Year George Strait and the Everly Brothers, died on Friday (April 11).

Although several reports prematurely announced his death on Monday (April 7), the singer was not dead at that point — but was very gravely ill. Soon after, the inspirational songwriter passed away at his home in Charlottesville, Va., according to his wife, Cindy Winchester, as reported by the Commercial Appeal.

Winchester drew critical acclaim for his songs. His tunes were covered by so many well-loved artists, including Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Stoney Edwards. The song ‘A Showman’s Life’ was recorded by Strait, Gary Allan, and Buddy Miller, among others. Fans will find Strait’s version with Faith Hill on the ‘Here for a Good Time’ album.

Also known for his top hits, ‘Say What’ and ‘Yankee Lady,’ Winchester made a huge impression on country music with his highly touted songwriting and voice that rendered Costello speechless.

While he always considered himself a Memphis, Tenn. man, Winchester spent over 35 years in Canada, having moved there to protest the Vietnam War. He had been drafted, but joined over 100K young Americans in migrating north.

The Louisiana-born songwriter was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011, after which his friends and fellow artists recorded a collection of songs for his tribute album, ‘Quiet About It.’ The project was spearheaded by Buffett and featured performances by James Taylor, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, and Costello. He survived that first bout of cancer, but in February the cancer returned, this time in his bladder.

Winchester’s final days were spent in hospice care. He is survived by his wife, a brother, Cassius Winchester, and a sister, Ellyn Weeks, as well as his children, James, Alice, and Marcus Lee. He also has, a stepdaughter, Jennifer Slangerup, and five grandchildren.

Next: See the Top 100 Country Songs of All Time

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