This is slightly old news, but according to his official website, Leon Redbone “has retired from both public appearances and recording” as of May of this year.
It states, “a spokesman for the artist noted, ‘We share the sadness and disappointment sure to be experienced by his many fans and friends and hope they understand that his health has been a matter of concern for some time. It has become too challenging for him to continue the full range of professional activities.’”
According to Wikipedia, Redbone is only 66, which makes the reference to health problems surprising and worrisome, at least to this fan.
I have seen Redbone live at least seven or eight times, starting in the late 1970s, probably more than any other performer I have followed in my life. Like many of his fans, I first saw him on Saturday Night Live in 1976, and a few years later he was the opening act at the Merriwether Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD (I forget who the headliner was). I saw him at the Psyche Deli in Bethesda, the Birchmere in Virginia, the Cellar Door in D.C., and at least three times at the Ram’s Head in Annapolis over the past decade or so.
His recordings are lovely, but his live shows were magical. He was a brilliant performer, deftly melding incredible musical skill with dry wit and consummate showmanship. And throughout his career, he maintained a mysterious persona that was rarely penetrated. Verified facts about his origins are few and far between.
I went to his website today in hopes of seeing him again, only to learn that I have (probably) seen him for the last time. Very sad. Sic transit gloria mundi.
I hope his health improves, that he is able to return to performing, and that he lives a long life.
I only saw him once, at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival back in 2002. Strange venue, great, packed out show!
To be honest, I’ve never expected him to come back here, but it’s still disappointing that he’s not doing any more shows anywhere… Hope his health problems are treatable, anyway.
I saw him once in the early 80’s, and then just a few years ago in Annapolis, Md. Based on the last time I saw him, I’m surprised that he’s only 66. He seemed a lot older than that. He seemed to be having some medical issues. Though I’m sorry I won’t have a chance to see him again, but hope he’s happy in his retirement.
He may very well be older. As I said, he’s been very good at keeping details of his life secret or mysterious. For instance, at some point he claimed he was born on Oct. 29, 1929, the day of the stock market crash. However, I doubt he’s about to turn 86. He also told Rolling Stone that he was the love child of violinist Paganini and opera singer Jenny Lind. (The former died in 1840, the latter in 1887.)
Here’s a pagewith about as much info on his life as we’re likely to find.
I was probably at the show at the Ram’s Head you went to. I saw most of his later appearances there.
Like many Americans my age, I first saw Leon Redbone on “Saturday Night Live” around 1976. At first, I thought the musical guest was going to be Redbone, the American Indian band that did “Come and Get Your Love.”
When I first saw him, I had three different reactions:
At start: “I get it. He’s a comedian. This is a joke. He’s gonna do something funny any second now.”
Midway through: “What the hell? It’s no joke. He’s really singing ‘Shine on Harvest Moon’ faithfully.”
As he ended: “Whoa. Am I imagining things or was that actually kinda… good? Even great.”
I saw Leon Redbone in a small, intimate venue in 2010. The show was great, everyone was paying rapt attention to every note, every word, every move. But apparently, we weren’t enthusiastic enough, because Mr. Redbone suddenly left the stage and sent out a representative several minutes later to tell us the show was over.
Back when I was in show business I was once offered the opportunity to open for Leon Redbone.
A friend of mine occasionally opened for Leon, and I went to see the show one night. It was wonderful and I got to meet him afterward. A week or so later my friend called to say he couldn’t make it to a gig, and could I do it? Leon supposedly remembered meeting me and approved. But at that time I was winding my career down and moving on to other things, so I took a deep breath and said no, realizing I was passing up a big thing. I mark that as the official end of my performing career.
I guess none of us will ever find out what diddy wah diddy means now.
It would be nice if he released video of some of the shows the people above saw. So many musicians are always so broke. Maybe release of some of those shows could ensure he remains comfortable in retirement.