In the mainstream obituaries marking the death of John Stewart, who succumbed to a stroke on Saturday at age 68, the musician seems to be remembered primarily as the guy who composed “Daydream Believer” for the Monkees. That may be the biggest hit song he ever wrote, but he had a full-fledged career of his own, first with the Kingston Trio and then for 40 years as a solo artist, that earned him recognition as a father of the Americana movement and accolades from other musicians as a songwriter’s songwriter.
Stewart sang with the Kingston Trio, replacing original member Dave Guard, from 1961 to 1967, when the folk group recorded some of its biggest hits, including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Greenback Dollar.” In 1969, two years after the Monkees recorded his “Daydream Believer,” Stewart released the classic California Bloodlines album, now regarded as an Americana touchstone. His biggest solo hit may have been 1979’s “Gold.” Acolytes Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac backed him on that record; other musicians who helped turn his songs into hits included Joan Baez (“Strange Rivers”) and Rosanne Cash (“Runaway Train”).
Stewart continued to play live to the very end. He and fellow Kingston-er Nick Reynolds ran an annual fantasy camp where fans could perform with the duo. Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Stewart was recording an album at the time of his death that included a song entitled (typical of his dry wit) “I Can’t Drive Anymore.” At least the stroke spared him the full toll of the disease. I’ll leave you with tributes in the form of a lovely statement on the Kingston Trio website and, after the jump, one more YouTube concert clip.