John Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy on 11 September 1948 in New Malden, Surrey. His opera singer parents divorced when he was five, at which stage he began spending much of his time in Glasgow.
Mentored by Scottish folk legend Hamish Imlach, Martyn embarked on his musical career in 1965, at the age of 17.
He signed to Island in 1967 as a sweet-voiced singer-songwriter but quickly evolved beyond the limitations of the genre – disappointing those who had categorised him as a palliative singer-songwriter in the manner of Cat Stevens.
By 1972, touring, alcohol and other performance enhancers had rubbed a fine emery board over his sylvan set of pipes. Still, he sang with grizzled sincerity on after-hours classic Solid Air (1973).
The title track was a slow hypnotic blues song, written as both warning and homage to singer Nick Drake, who died 18 months after Solid Air‘s release.
In 1977 he was kicked out of home by his wife, Beverley, and physically attacked by Sid Vicious.
Martyn had his right leg amputated below the knee in 2003 as the result of a burst cyst.
He was awarded an OBE in the 2009 New Year Honours but passed away on 29 January 2009 in a hospital in Ireland, as a result of double pneumonia. He left behind a legacy of 22 studio albums, recorded since 1967.