When I first heard of the death of singer/folklorist/cartoonist/marine biologist Sam Hinton today, the first person I thought of was NPR's Melissa Block, who in one of my chats with her showed her enthusiasm for an album from her own childhood, Whoever Shall Have Good Peanuts. The album was re-released in 2006 on Smithsonian Folkways (review) and was a fine example just how far a good voice, a guitar, and a sense of humor could get you. In Hinton's case, really far.
I shouldn't have been surprised, then, when later today I heard Block chat on the air with Leanne Hinton, one of Sam Hinton's daughters, on Hinton's passing at age 92 last Thursday. By any measure, Sam Hinton led a full and wonderful life, managing to raise a family, give concerts, and help run the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. But of course, as is so often (sadly) the case, it takes someone's passing to truly appreciate a life, and that's the case here...
Two videos worth watching. The first is a profile of Hinton filmed last year and aired on San Diego's PBS station. You can see how Hinton's arthritis had slowed him down, but you can see that he's still able to play the harmonica without using his hands.
Second, George Winston's Dancing Cat label (whose Hawaiian slack key recordings I adore, incidentally) has posted (in 17 segments) a video called "Sam Hinton's Amazing Diatonic Harmonic Styles." (More Dancing Cat/Hinton stuff can be found here.) You can watch the first segment here, but what I really want you to watch is the second segment, at the end of which he plays four harmonicas, not at once, but in sequence. Totally awesome.
My condolences to his family.