James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born on 17 May 1944 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His father, stationed there as an Air Force major at the time, descended from a prominent Memphis family related by blood to Robert E Lee and to the founders of the city of Memphis.
Jesse’s great-great-great-great grandfather was responsible for getting Davey Crockett into national politics while his grandfather gave the eulogy at jazz musician W.C. Handy’s funeral.
In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam war, Jesse moved to Canada rather than participate.
In 1970, Jesse was “discovered” by The Band‘s Robbie Robertson, who produced his debut album, Jesse Winchester that included such classics as Yankee Lady and Brand New Tennessee Waltz.
Since then, those, and songs from his subsequent albums have been recorded by such artists as Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, the Everly Brothers, Wilson Pickett, and Fairport Convention, while his own albums received critical praise throughout the world.
Winchester became a Canadian citizen in 1973, was pardoned for avoiding the draft by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1977, and moved back to the United States in 2002.
In 2011, Winchester was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and underwent treatment. He was later given a clean bill of health from his doctor and resumed his tour.
In April 2014, it was revealed that Winchester was “gravely ill” and receiving hospice care at his home. He died on the morning of 11 April 2014, at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, from bladder cancer. He was 69.