RIP George Winston

John Scalzi

We were, literally, listening to his music last night. We listen to it a lot, as Krissy finds it helpful to fall asleep to. “Music to fall asleep to” does not usually sound like the category of music one wants to be associated with, but here it is a compliment. Winston’s playing was so comforting and reassuring that one felt safe and at home, wherever one was. It wasn’t generic. Winston had a style his own, and no one else quite sounded like him.

The report on his death in Rolling Stone notes that he had been fighting cancer for the last decade, and also that apparently this fact was well known; it was news to me. I am sad about it. But his music makes me happy, and restful, and I expect I will be listening to it the rest of my days. So, thank you, George Winston. You were heard, and appreciated.

Posted above is my favorite piece of his, from his December album, which is probably my favorite. It’s called “Joy” and it does indeed feel joyful, the sort of joy you feel when you come home and all of your world is there when you open the door. It was a lovely thing to put into the world. I’m glad Winston did so.

— JS

27 Comments on “RIP George Winston”

  1. I feel the same way about his music as you, John, after listening to him for ,35( years.

    I know way I will listen to the rest of the day.

  2. Thank you for this. I loved Winston’s work and the album December. The song “Thanksgiving” was one of the first I tried to teach myself on piano. I appreciate that he was a favorite of yours and Krissy’s as well.

  3. Ah, dang…I loved Winston. People wanted to lump him into easy listening, new age, or some such thing but that really wasn’t giving him credit. Did he call what he did “folk piano”?

    Anyway, all of his records are great, December especially.

  4. This makes me so sad. I loved George Winston, too. In the 80’s I worked in a mall bookstore, and we were lucky to have a manager who installed a stereo system in our store (this was before it was the thing to do for chain bookstores). Many a rainy night with almost no customers, or sunny bright summer Sunday mornings doing prep before opening, I would pop in one of his cassettes and zen out while working. I never really liked opera, and only a handful of classical, so for me he was my “mature adult” music.

  5. I used to listen to all the Windham Hill albums in the early 80s. I discovered Will Ackerman’s guitar while walking through the stores near the Plaza out in Santa Fe, and immediately tracked down his work. George’s piano was next, and for many years, I owned everything they released. They provided many happy hours of instrumental music for writing to. George will be missed.

  6. Aw, I’ve been listening to him since I was a teenager. The December album makes a nice change for holiday listening, but I also highly recommend his album of Vince Guaraldi covers. Not just for all the zippy peppy Peanuts music, but for a haunting version of ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind.’

  7. Oh, this is sad news. I love his music for all the reasons you stated. We were lucky to see him live and it was a lovely evening. I will be pulling his music from our collection today to remember him.

  8. Sad news. Have a bunch of his CDs and even got to see him in concert once. :-(

  9. My late brother did some music arranging and I recall one of his comments comparing a few of his songs to Mr. Winston.

    Listening to Bruce’s music again, I can see the resemblance

  10. I, too, loved his music. I will continue to enjoy it, with a touch more sadness now.

  11. Alas, George Winston. One of my piano hero’s, along with Jacqueline Schwab and Liz Story. I love (attempting) to play his music, love even more listening to him play.

  12. Heartbreaking! I’ve loved his music for decades. My wife surprised me with an evening at a concert he held in Springfield, IL, years ago. I love so much of his work.

    Godspeed, Mr. Winston!

  13. Very sad news indeed. My spouse and I play his December album almost nonstop during the holidays. We have all his CDs and one of my most cherished memories was scoring front-row seats for his concert at Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall in the 80s. He put every ounce of his soul into that keyboard that evening.
    We’ll miss him terribly. May he rest in peace from the ravages of cancer.

  14. “December” features prominently in my “Grown up” Christmas playlist. May light shine on his memory.

  15. I remember attending one of his concerts a very long time ago where he invited the audience to come up on stage and dance while he played snoopy’s theme.

  16. The chorus of that piece is the instrumental part of the hymn “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” which is so ancient that it is almost certainly public domain. 😉
    Nice tribute

  17. Truly saddened to hear this. I met George on a number of occasions. After the first time I saw him in concert, I waited for a chance to say ‘hi’ and get a CD signed; after a while, the few of us that were waiting were invited backstage, where George took the time to speak with each of us individually. When I told him of the year that I’d spent in Montana (his home state) while in AmeriCorps, he wanted to know more about the work that I’d done while there. He also gave me an email contact address, telling me to email him whenever he was coming to my area, and he would have a pair of tickets left for me at the box office.

    The generosity went a bit further; he had played a couple of his covers of music by The Doors at the show, and I had spent the afternoon playing The Doors at my office, and had been unaware of his recent release of Doors’ covers. He excused himself for a moment, then returned with a copy of the CD, which he gifted and inscribed to me.

    Over the following two decades or so, if he came nearby while I was in town, I would request a few tickets from him, which he would kindly provide, and I would make sure to bring canned goods to the show for him to donate to any local food pantries. He always included the food drive at every concert I saw of his. I would always stay after to chat with him a bit, and was touched that he always recalled my name and the work that I’d done for AmeriCorps in his state.

    And I did, and do, love his music. Gentle, poetic, evocative, listening to it was always relaxing. I’m pretty sure I have every release of his.

    I was aware that he had ongoing health issues over the last several years, but I didn’t know the specifics. When I’d see him, he was generally upbeat and friendly.

    I hope he know how much pleasure his music gave to his fans.

    RIP, George Winston

  18. He was truly one of a kind. I listen to his music in the Fall of the year and all through the Holidays. His music helped relieve the stress that comes with Holiday expectations.

  19. Thank you for this information. I love his music and might not have found out through another source. RIP, George.

  20. I have very little music in my life. I’ve been to maybe three concerts, ever. I wish I’d attended one of Winston’s. I had no idea he was ill. His DECEMBER album is the only audio cassette I’d ever worn out from playing it so much.

  21. He’ll be missed. I’m glad someone else picked up on his quotation of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and it is, indeed, in the public domain–it’s a Bach chorale.

    We heard him, among other places, at a little barn in northern California where the seating was on hay bales, and he put just as much of his soul into that little concert–seating maybe 70==as he did at the biggest venues. And for an encore, it turned out that he was an absolutely fantastic harmonica player.

  22. I learned about his music from my dad when I was in high school, I listened to it then constantly and it remains an occasional comfort now. Very sad news, but yes he contributed something so wonderful in his life, and I’m grateful to know his music. I’m traveling tomorrow and I know what I’ll be adding to my playlist now to relax on the plane.

  23. Decades ago I watched George in concert in NH. At the start of the show this guy in plaid shirt and no shoes (just socks) wanders on stage and strums the piano. STRUMS the piano strings! Is that a Roadie?? Nope. That was George doing his thing.

    The most delightful, funny and relaxing concert ever. He was one of a kind. I have his CD.

    But I never knew he did a Doors cover.

    RIP George.

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