Thursday, May 13, 2010

R.I.P, Dave Fisher

(Los Angeles Times) Dave Fisher, founding member and lead singer of the 1960s folk group the Highwaymen, whose recording of the Civil War anti-slavery song "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" became a surprise pop hit in 1962, has died. He was 69.

Fisher died Friday at his home in Rye, N.Y., of myelofibrosis, a rare blood disease, family friend Nicole Fiftal said Wednesday.

"The original Highwaymen, along with the Kingston Trio and, later, Peter, Paul and Mary, were among those responsible for popularizing original American music — call it folk, blues, country, whatever," Kris Kristofferson told The Times on Wednesday. "Those of us who were able to walk through the doors they opened are grateful."


The Highwaymen's melancholy 1959 recording of "Michael," abbreviating the original title for their version, was released as the B side of a single, and only became a hit two years after it had been issued, well after the group had been dropped by United Artists Records because its music had failed to connect in a big way like that of the Kingston Trio.

Disc jockeys, however, belatedly homed in on "Michael" and began playing it in 1961. It eventually went to No. 1 nationally, and spent two weeks atop Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

The Highwaymen's only other release to make the Top 20 was "Cotton Fields," at the time a nearly forgotten song by folk-blues musician Leadbelly. Because of the Highwaymen's version, the song worked its way into the folk-rock lexicon and later was treated to versions by Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Beach Boys, among others.

R.I.P, Mr. Fisher. You shall be missed.

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