Bruce Langhorne iTunes Tracks

Bruce Langhorne

A 60s session player turned film composer, BRUCE LANGHORNE (born May 11, 1938, Tallahassee, Florida) was raised by his mother in New York City’s Spanish Harlem area. At an early age he learned the violin, but with the loss of three fingers after a homemade rocket blew up in his right hand, he succumbed to just playing his unique and very distinctive style of guitar picking. He was said to have joined up with local teenage gang until their involvement in a stabbing; his time in Mexico might well’ve had a certain calming effect of his music.
Bruce initially made his way into the music business as a charismatic bit player on the Greenwich Village folk scene. BOB DYLAN was moved to pen `Mr. Tambourine Man’ in the black guitarist’s honour. In addition to studio session work for the likes of The CLANCY BROTHERS & TOMMY MAKEM, ODETTA, TOM RUSH, BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE, RICHIE HAVENS, PETER LaFARGE, GORDON LIGHTFOOT, HUGH MASAKELA, STEVE GILLETTE, JOHN B. SEBASTIAN and DYLAN associates RICHARD & MIMI FARINA (not forgetting JOAN BAEZ) et al, Bruce famously played with Mr. Zimmerman, himself, contributing guitar to `The Freewheelin’…’ (1963), `Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965) and the bard’s seminal soundtrack to 1973’s `Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid’; LANGHORNE’s own move into movie scores presaged the latter work; a lost, recently recovered, 2004-released psych-country gem initially written to accompany Peter Fonda’s directorial debut, THE HIRED HAND (1971){*8}.
One of those ravishing oddities that make the arcane world of soundtracks so addictive, it’s an extended hymn to the silence of the gods in the Old West and the Appalachians. That it was issued at all was – to soundtrack geeks and DYLAN-ites alike – a miracle of Abraham-esque stature; even taking into account the vanished masters and sonic reconstruction (“the sound was not of the pristine, digital quality that we have come to expect from modern recordings” – praise the Lord!), its inexhaustible depths argued a case that all composers should approach their task as amateurs, and follow LANGHORNE’s garage ethic to the letter.
The music was recorded – by his then girlfriend – on a Revox two-track and at least some of the magic came from the vintage instruments, of which only a 1920 Martin guitar, fiddle and medieval-looking dulcimer survived. The Echoplex was long gone, but it lived on here in music of uncommon profundity, a sound that seems to dissolve into the very DNA of the desert. There’s no real indication of how Bruce came up with this stuff, just 24 minutes of gloaming beatitude and unsolid air. Melodies are plucked out largely on the ancient strings, mantra-like in their humility, oscillating inside canyon-deep acoustics; Peter Fonda’s unlikely pied piper brandishing his wooden recorder like a shamanic device, sending primordial whorls into a holy twilight.
In fact, those premonitory bass notes would echo into Bruce’s work on that other luminous early 70s score, `Pat Garrett…’. The two soundtracks are different sides of the same saddle, even if LANGHORNE’s primitivism Americana occupied a truly hallowed place in the greater scheme of things; a hallucinatory refraction of Fonda’s film and a mystic cowboy symphony in its own right.
Scores to Fonda follow-up, `Idaho Transfer’ (1973), Bob “Five Easy Pieces” Rafelson’s `Stay Hungry’ (1976) – alongside BYRON BERLINE – and Jonathan Demme’s `Fighting Mad’ (1976), followed in quick succession although only his work on Fonda vehicle, `Outlaw Blues’ (1977), made it to soundtrack stage, albeit with the aid of classical guy, Charles Bernstein. Following a score for Demme’s breakthrough feature, `Melvin And Howard’ (1980), also unreleased, Bruce moved into TV work and subsequently composed the music for two further movies, `The Upstairs Neighbor’ (1994) and `The Argument’ (1999).
Outside of music, in 1992 Bruce founded his own organic and all-natural food company, Brother Bru-Bru’s African Hot Sauce. Sadly, after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2015, he spent his final few years in a hospice until he passed away on April 14, 2017.
© MC Strong 2008/BG-LCS // rev-up MCS Apr2017

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