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Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.

DigiTrad:
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SWINGING?
KEEWANAW LIGHT
NEW HARMONY
NORTH COUNTRY TRAGEDY


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Soo Line / Fire in the Jackpine (Johnson) (19)
Craig Johnson songs (42)
Lyr Add: Damned Old Piney Mountains (C Johnson) (20)
Lyr Req: Way Down the Road (Craig Johnson) (36)
Lyr Add: Keweenaw Light (Craig Johnson) (25)
Lyr Req: Roll, Big Sandy, Roll (Craig Johnson) (14)
Craig Johnson - CD available (34)
Lyr Req: Damned Old Piney Mountains (9)
Lyr Add: North Country Tragedy (Craig Johnson) (16)
The telling takes me home (2)


Martha Burns 05 Dec 09 - 01:20 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Dec 09 - 01:31 PM
Waddon Pete 05 Dec 09 - 01:37 PM
Dan Schatz 05 Dec 09 - 01:51 PM
Fortunato 05 Dec 09 - 02:04 PM
Bat Goddess 05 Dec 09 - 02:04 PM
frogprince 05 Dec 09 - 02:25 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 05 Dec 09 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,Riki Schneyer 05 Dec 09 - 03:57 PM
Charley Noble 05 Dec 09 - 04:10 PM
katlaughing 05 Dec 09 - 04:12 PM
Bill D 05 Dec 09 - 04:26 PM
Severn 05 Dec 09 - 05:12 PM
Art Thieme 05 Dec 09 - 06:28 PM
Padre 05 Dec 09 - 10:47 PM
GUEST,Russ 06 Dec 09 - 12:49 AM
Art Thieme 06 Dec 09 - 01:51 AM
GUEST,Ann & Bill Fisher 06 Dec 09 - 07:05 PM
Waddon Pete 07 Dec 09 - 07:53 AM
Martha Burns 07 Dec 09 - 11:48 AM
Art Thieme 07 Dec 09 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,Dick Swain 07 Dec 09 - 12:05 PM
open mike 07 Dec 09 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,Falco 07 Dec 09 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,Carol Mohr 07 Dec 09 - 02:47 PM
Art Thieme 07 Dec 09 - 06:28 PM
GUEST,Tom Druckenmiller 07 Dec 09 - 09:46 PM
GUEST,Ellen Jacobs 08 Dec 09 - 10:43 AM
Martha Burns 08 Dec 09 - 10:58 AM
Martha Burns 09 Dec 09 - 12:07 AM
GUEST,Yehudit Newman 09 Dec 09 - 02:34 PM
GUEST,M. Palms 16 Jan 10 - 05:34 PM
GUEST,Mike Shanahan 11 Feb 10 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,Kim Dietrich 20 Jun 10 - 01:11 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Jun 10 - 04:21 PM
Martha Burns 23 Jun 10 - 10:59 AM
GUEST,dick.hamlet 11 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM
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Subject: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Martha Burns
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 01:20 PM

Craig Johnson died this morning from esophageal cancer. He had been in hospice for over a week and was no longer receiving treatment. The medication he was receiving for pain made him mostly unaware of the world. Peace be with you, old pal.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 01:31 PM

RIP. He was inimitable in the Double Decker String Band.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 01:37 PM

This is sad news. He was a great performer and songwriter. I can never see a Winnebago without thinking of his marvelous song, "A North Country Tragedy".

My thoughts are with his friends and family.

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 01:51 PM

This is a terrible loss. We'll miss you're music and yourself, Craig.

Dan


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Fortunato
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 02:04 PM

"My hands can't fiddle and my heart's been broke..."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 02:04 PM

Sad. Wonderful songs!

He not only will be missed -- he IS missed.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: frogprince
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 02:25 PM

Re "North Country Tragedy": How many of you have actually seen that GIANT CLAM ? We had pulled over to check it out not long before I first heard the song, and it definitely made the song that much more memorable for me. Very possibly the silliest, lamest excuse for a tourist attraction ever.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 02:28 PM

Hard, hard news. He was active on Facebook right up to the last week.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Riki Schneyer
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 03:57 PM

I can hardly express how sad it makes me to say goodbye to Craig.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 04:10 PM

So sorry to hear this.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: katlaughing
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 04:12 PM

This is so sad. I learned about his songs from Art.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Art, I know how tender your heart is and this is a hard one for you, darlin'. All my love and hugs are yours.

RIP,

kat and Rog


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Bill D
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 04:26 PM

............there is NOTHING I can say to do justice to what I feel. He is gone, but 32 years of memories remain..... and songs that soar!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Severn
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 05:12 PM

A great blow to all who loved him and/or his musicand I know there's quite a number of us in the DC area alone. Best thoughts going out from me to the family and those closest to him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:28 PM


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Padre
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 10:47 PM

A wonderful singer, and a great person to know. His music will help us remember him - RIP, Craig.

Padre


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 12:49 AM

Wonderful person and musician.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 01:51 AM

I am sorry for the blank post, people. I was set to try to write something and wound up just feeling empty and too sad to find any words. While staring at the blank screen, I, somehow, clicked submit. I loved the man. I wish we'd lived closer. Of all the songs I sang, Craig's caught the spirit of the that place and the those people so absolutely thoroughly--and perfectly... The U.P. of Michigan is a magical landscape and I found Craig Johnson and his thaumaturgic songs about the place at exactly the same moment in my life when good Yoopers were hiring me to come up there and sing at the North Country Folk Festival plus other places.

--- I got a wonderful e-mail from Craig a couple of weeks ago. It was so Craig---all of it! The humor of the man--always the humor that was made profound by the intellect... Damn, I will miss this fine man.

Well, it does seem that I have found some few words to indicate some of the depth of loss I am feeling. Brenda and everyone, please know that so many of us share your anguish tonight. Love to you all. Thank you for sharing Craig with us.

Love, Art


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Ann & Bill Fisher
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 07:05 PM

Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Art. The first time we ever heard you was at the Montclare coffee house. At the break you learned we had a Michigan (and I a U.P.) connection. The second half you sang all those wonderful Craig Johnson songs and we were hooked--on you and on him. We were fortunate to hear him live both at Hiawatha and at the first Clifftop festival. What a terrible loss. We are so grateful for the wonderful music he left behind and for all of those who keep singing them for us.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:53 AM

Wayland Radio paid tribute to Craig on their weekly folk show yesterday.
They played 'New Harmony' by Sandy & Caroline Paton and 'Soo Line (fire in the jack pines)' by Art Thieme. I was also able to give them some background information.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Martha Burns
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 11:48 AM

At others' suggestion, I created a Flickr photo album to honor Craig. You can see it, and ADD TO IT, at http://www.flickr.com/groups/craigjohnson/. Please do add to it, too, if you have any photos of Craig. The instructions for uploading photos are right there on the page, and are very easy.
P.S. You can also reach this page by going to flickr.com and searching "Craig Johnson" under "groups."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 11:55 AM

Hello. Brenda VanLunen, Craig's wife, has set a time and place for a memorial service. It will be held at the First Reformed Church of Cary, NC on Sat. Dec. 12, 2009 at 1 pm. The family will receive visitors immediately after the service in the fellowship hall, and other times at the home.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Dick Swain
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 12:05 PM

Craig was a great guy, a wonderful singer and player, and a fabulous songwriter. His latest (and I think only) solo recording came out this fall on 5 String Productions: Craig Johnson: Away Down the Road, 5SP06001.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: open mike
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 01:23 PM

this was not unexpected, best wishes to his family, and friends.
More about his c.d. here...
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=123904


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Falco
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 01:26 PM

Sad news. A very talented artist. Skilled songwriter.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Carol Mohr
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 02:47 PM

I'm glad to see that Craig had a good life and touched many people since he left Michigan. I haven't been in touch with him since then, but I'll always remember him with fondness and admiration.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 06:28 PM

Ann and Bill Fisher,
It's great hearing from you this rounabout way. I do hope that you are well. Those were good times--fondly remembered.

Best,

Art


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Tom Druckenmiller
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 09:46 PM

I met Craig about 25 years ago at Augusta. I was a newbie to old-time music and he was my first banjo instructor. I have frequently retold the story of the Friday afternoon when we sat and he filled an index card with "essential recordings" for my collection. I carried that card in my wallet for many years and finally found them all. May you be at peace.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Ellen Jacobs
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 10:43 AM

It is so hard to say goodbye. I'm grateful for wonderful memories of music and friendship.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Martha Burns
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 10:58 AM

Here is Craig's obituary from the Cremation Society of the Carolinas. You can also see it http://www.cremnc.com/sitemaker/sites/Cremat2/obit.cgi?user=151400Johnson.

BIOGRAPHY
Craig Johnson, 56, died on Saturday December 5, 2009 at the Rex Hospital Hospice Unit of esophageal cancer. He was born March 25, 1953 in Ann Arbor, MI, to Frank Crane Johnson and Carolyn Welsby Johnson. Over the years he was a social worker, teacher, and carpenter, but his lifelong passion was music.

He grew up in Wayne, Michigan and attended Wayne High School. He got a BA in Education from the University of Michigan. While at college he became enamored of old time string band music. After college he moved to the Washington DC area where he taught school and later was a carpenter. He moved to Morgantown WV in 1990 and attended WVU where he got an MSW. He worked for the WVU Center on Aging, and was also a visiting professor of social work at WVU. In 2001 he moved to NC. He taught social work briefly at Meredith College, and then became a clinical social worker at John Umstead / Central Regional Hospital.

Since 1972 he always played in a string band – Skunk's Misery, Argo Pond String Band, Hambone Sweets, Double Decker Stringband, and Martin and Johnson. He played fiddle, banjo, and guitar, and was a renowned singer. He also wrote several songs and tunes including Away Down the Road, Keweenaw Light, New Harmony, Stambaugh Waltz, and many others. With Double Decker Stringband he recorded several LPs, cassettes, and CDs. He also recorded a CD with Wayne and Margaret Martin. After being diagnosed with cancer Craig was planning to record hundreds of old time songs that he knew by heart. Before he could do so, he lost his voice due to cancer. A solo CD, "Away Down the Road" on 5-String Productions, based on recordings that Craig had made in a few years earlier, was completed before his death with the help of John Beam, Bill Schmidt, Wayne Martin and Tim Brown. The CD stands as a beautiful culmination of Craig's life work

Craig learned from the "old masters" of old time music including Clyde Davenport, Luther Davis, Kahle Brewer, and many others. He loved to share his gift of music, and taught at various venues including the Augusta Heritage Center, Pinewoods, Old Songs Festival, Merlefest, Live Oak Festival, Bluff Country Gathering, to name a few. It was at the Augusta Heritage Festival in WV that he met his wife, Brenda VanLunen. They married in 1989 and have 2 children, Alec and Sally.

He played with John Beam, Bruce Hutton, and Bill Schmidt in the Double Decker Stringband for over 30 years, and considered them his dearest friends and brothers. Together they played at concerts and festivals all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Practice was always an excuse to drink beer, tell jokes, and have a good time. After moving to NC in 2001 he enjoyed playing music with his great good friends Wayne and Margaret Martin.

Craig also enjoyed woodworking, and was inordinately proud of his wooden catfish "Big Al". He loved boats, trains, and history. He was delighted to buy a used O'Day Javelin sailboat in 2007 and spent the summer of 2008 sailing it whenever possible.

Craig was a loving and beloved husband, father, brother, and friend. He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Carolyn Johnson. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Brenda VanLunen, his children Alec and Sally, both of the home, his sister and brother-in-law Karen and Ted Gagnier, his favorite mother-in-law Judy Mason and her husband Stanley Baron, and numerous in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Flowers are welcome, or memorials may be made to First Reformed Church of Cary, Camp Kesem NC, or Hospice of Wake County.

A memorial service will be held at First Reformed Church of Cary, 555 SW Maynard Rd, Cary, NC on Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 1 pm. The family will receive visitors immediately after the service in the fellowship hall, and other times at the home.

Arrangements are by Cremation Society of the Carolinas. Online condolences at www.cremnc.com

"And the stars will shine bright on the south shore tonight
and the Keweenaw light sweeps over the bay,
And if dreams could come true, I'd still be there with you
On the banks of cold waters at the close of the day." - Craig Johnson, Keweenaw Light

FACTS
Born: March 25, 1953
Death: December 5, 2009


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Martha Burns
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 12:07 AM

UPDATE ON CRAIG JOHNSON PHOTO ALBUM AT FLICKR.COM

The album includes 34 photos, so far. A highlight is "New Harmony" in Craig's handwriting, from around 1978. To see what's there, or add to the pool, go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/craigjohnson/pool/.

You MAY have to set up a yahoo account in order to see the photos. Or maybe that's just to add new photos. Still not entirely clear on that. (Anyone else know?)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Yehudit Newman
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 02:34 PM

I knew Craig from Wayne, where we grew up. He introduced me to the Ark and folk music when we were at UofM, and I have fond memories of talks with him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,M. Palms
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 05:34 PM

Craig was one of my musical heroes. His songs and melodies have been sung and loved by us here in Michigan for years. I also have memories of Craig teaching at Augusta and sharing his knowledge of Mississippi tunes and helping me understand old time music. He will be missed - Truly a classic musician and songwriter.

The Keweenaw lights keep shining. (M. Palms / Raisin Pickers)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Mike Shanahan
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 11:56 AM

I am sorry I only found out about Craig's illness and death a week or so ago and just found this thread today. Craig, myself and a fiddler, Bill Miller, started an old timey band together in Ann Arbor around 1972 called Skunk's Misery. It was a first venture into that genre for all of us and an exciting time for acoustic music those days with the Ark Coffeehouse being a focal point - we even performed there a few times. I still have a concert recording of a gig we played in Rochester NY, courtesy of Scott Utley. Craig had a strong and lasting influence on me both as a friend and musician and I have thought of him often over the years even though we had lost contact. He wasn't writing songs back then, but we did meet a few times subsequently and he played some of those he had written, mighty stuff. I truly lament this passing of an old and dear friend and offer my condolences to his family and all others who loved him.

Mike Shanahan - Carbondale, IL


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,Kim Dietrich
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 01:11 PM

Craig was my best friend during our years at Wayne Memorial High School. Indeed, we first met as toddlers in a Wayne Congregational Church Nursery School. I just learned of his death today. He was a warm and wonderful companion -- we supported each other through a lot of tough times during our formative years. We lost touch after leaving for college and separate lives -- but I've never forgotten him. My sincerest sympathy to his family and all of you very fortunate people who came to know him.

Kim N. Dietrich
Cincinnati, Ohio.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 04:21 PM

a reminder--Craig's CD is stll available. Well worth listening to.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: Martha Burns
Date: 23 Jun 10 - 10:59 AM

A gathering to celebrate the life of Craig Johnson will take place this Saturday June 26th in Chevy Chase, Maryland. If you were a friend of Craig's and would like to attend, please write to me privately for details.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Craig Johnson, December 5, 2009.
From: GUEST,dick.hamlet
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM

I never met Craig in person -- I got no closer than the audience when he was performing -- but his songs are very important to me. I first heard someone else sing "Yew Pine Hills," and the singer mentioned "Willow Run" as a great song. Craig had an FSGW-sponsored concert where he sang his Michigan UP songs along with these two, and I was thoroughly hooked. I had a badly recorded tape of that concert and carried it with me. Craig had one of those voices I find hard to track -- just which note was that? (Garnet Rogers has another.) So I'd listen to a line, try to sing it, then listen again and see that I had it wrong. In 1982 I was commuting to work by bicycle. I'd play through the song before I set off for work, sing under my breath until I hit a hard spot, stop in traffic, fish out my cassette, find and play the line, and keep on. It must have taken two weeks of this to learn "Willow Run."

Some excellent songwriters are storytellers, some write tunes that stay in your head (maybe too well!), some are commenting on events. Craig did all of these, but I think he was primarily a poet. When he wrote something there was a shock of how perfectly it was said along with the sense. When I heard a song of his new to me, like "New Harmony" on the Payton's record, it was an event of major importance. Alas! We'll wait in vain for another song now.


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