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Farewell, Utah: Folksinger Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips Dead At 73

“Golden Voice Of The Great Southwest” Is Gone To The Coffeehouse In The Sky

by Daniel P. Dern ©2008

If, any of a few times a year during the 70s, 80s or 90s, you were in Harvard Square (in Cambridge, Mass.), and went around the back of the Harvard Coop (pronounced “coop” as in “chicken coop,” although it is short for “Co-operative”) to one end of one-lane alley 47 Palmer Street, where a half-flight of stairs led down to the door of the Passim Coffeeshop, you might have encounted a man who looked like a cross between Kris Kringle and a cowboy, wearing a largish hat, sporting a full curly white beard, making deep-voice duck-quack noises (“a base canard,” he would note) and warning would-be buyers to avoid the upcoming performer. In election years, he might have been stumping for president, as candidate for the “Do-Nothing” party — “If elected, I will do nothing.” Or he might simply have been greeting friends in the line.

That would, of course, have been the late folksinger, songwriter, storyteller, humorist and historian Bruce “U.Utah” Phillips, “the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, America’s most-feared folksinger,” in town for another of his always entertaining, thought-provoking, educational, historical shows.

U. Utah Phillips (image from <www.TheLongMemory.org>)
Utah died Friday night, May 23, 2008, of congestive heart failure. He was 73. He had been having health problems for the past several years, which, among other things, forced him to retire from actively touring and performing. According to reports, he passed away peacefully, in his sleep, at his home for the past two decades in Nevada City, California. Continue reading