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Kevin Coyne
Kevin Coyne

I came across Kevin Coyne quite by accident. A video. The song ``Talking to No One.'' It immediately spoke to me. The lyrics, ``Talking to no one is strange. Talking to someone is stranger.''

Then there was ``House on the Hill.'' A friend, Ron Horner, heard it before me. He warned, ``It is pretty depressing.'' Yes, but also sadly beautiful. And written from the heart. Listen to Coyne talk about it at the end of the song, which is linked below. Actually, there are two versions, one showing Coyne singing it, another illustrated with photographs. Both worthwhile.

Coyne's been described as one of England's great white blues singers.  I think he's just a great singer and songwriter. A bit of Dylan but more intense. Coyne is seldom laid back.

As a singer, he is also a great actor. He reminds me of, looked a bit like in later life, the late Richard Harris. His ``acting-singing'' vocal range is something like a combination of Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole's, from down here (Burton) to up there (O'Toole). (On listening again to his songs, I realized it wasn't his vocal range that is wide, it is his emotional range.) His phrasing is also up to Burton and O'Toole's standards.

As a writer, in his greatest songs – well, the ones I like best – he feels a little like John Steinbeck. There's a lot of compassion in many of his songs along the line of ``The Grapes of Wrath'' or ``Of Mice and Men.'' He is amazingly intense and passionate, something that also comes through in Steinbeck. It simply wells up.

Listen to the lyrics of ``House on the Hill'' as you look at the visuals. Or listen to-watch ``Old Soldier.'' Or listen to his version of the British World War I classic ballad ``Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty.'' He feels for these people, especially the mentally ill. As it happens, he worked at a sanitarium as a young man. It stayed with him.

Coyne was born in 1944, died in 2004. In the version below of ``No One to Talk To'' you can tell he aged quickly, from hip looking rocker to moody, romantic early middle age to a suddenly hefty and gray-haired poet-singer who's had a few too many but is content with where he is. You hope he enjoyed those last years, singing his deeply felt songs.

He died of lung fibrosis. I wish I had been introduced to him decades ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly8rgkvxADQ (Talking to No One)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2no4xBL-zc (House on the Hill)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxhjVZA_2Xg (House on the Hill illustrated)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZV5c42-f3g (Old Soldier)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgrMTw0LQhU (Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty)