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Jimmy LaFave (1955 - 2017)

Getty Images / Wireimage / Photo by Brett Deering

Jimmy LaFave (1955 - 2017)

Jimmy LaFave, an Americana singer-songwriter known for the “Red Dirt” sound, has died of cancer. He was 61.

Music Road, LaFave’s record label, posted this message to Facebook Monday:

“The LaFave Family regrets to inform Jimmy’s friends and fans across the world that the Austin based singer-songwriter passed from this world, surrounded by loved ones in his home on May 21, 2017, after a courageous battle with cancer.”

LaFave was born July 12, 1955, in Willis Point, Texas. He grew up in Oklahoma and started out playing in clubs in Stillwater. He helped establish what is known as Red Dirt music. The sound is a rootsy mix of country, folk, blues, and rock.


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LaFave moved to Austin, Texas, in the mid-1980s. He became well-known in the Austin music scene. He released his debut album, “Austin Skyline,” in 1992. LaFave received national exposure in 1996 when he was a featured artist on the Public Broadcasting Service music show “Austin City Limits.” He appeared on the show with Lisa Loeb for a concert featuring "acoustic ballads and electrified folk-rock numbers."

LaFave was a big fan of Woody Guthrie, and he became one of the organizers of the Woody Guthrie Folk Festivals. He also produced a Woody Guthrie tribute show called “Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway.”

In 2007, LaFave released the album “Cimarron Manifesto” on Red House Records. The album received great reviews and went to No. 1 on the Americana Music Association chart.

LaFave announced publicly in April that he was receiving treatment for spindle cell sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that medical doctors had diagnosed one year earlier. He continued to perform and record new material while undergoing treatment for the disease.

A tribute show for LaFave was held May 18 at the Paramount Theater in Austin. Performers included Eliza Gilkyson and Slaid Cleaves from Austin and Nashville’s Gretchen Peters. In June, LaFave will be inducted posthumously into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

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