«Return to Main Blog PageWith a Love That is More than Love: Benefit Concert to be Held for Local Artist Charles Lyonhart May 27, 2015
His lyrics are written on the broadside of a raven’s wing, and they mix with his music somewhere on the other side of beyond. To his listeners’ ears, he has created five entirely new and separate shades of black, each representing a sense—a memory that has long been forgotten, by chance or by purpose, and by the time we’ve almost remembered it, the next verse slides through the delicate wingspan of his voice.
In this action, Charles Lyonhart becomes both our savior and our slayer. As savior, he delivers us to a soft landing just as we’re taking a sweaty fall back into a long-repressed nightmare. As slayer, he pulls us from a foggy bliss of reminiscence, and at once we are jolted into reality of our ever-present.
A Bronx-bred New Yorker, Lyonhart came of age during that great creative handshake between the Beat poets of the 1950s and the Folk singers of the 1960s. The Beats rejected the caged institutional meter of academe and put into words the undeniable thin line between the beauty and tragedy of human life. Patti Page’s price of a doggie in a storefront window was all grown up, and the waggle in its tail became the hackled hair of what happens when the sun goes down and the glassed up shiny of the display shatters.
At the same time, traditional Folk music was beginning to slip its monotonic broadcloth jacket for a new set of streetwise clothes, and it began its howling stride towards an audience that was starving for the real of it all. One strike of a snare drum in 1965 threw an electrified gavel down on the sound block of the age: Bob Dylan served up a fresh new dish of cool at the family dinner table.
Not unlike the creative minds of many Americans of that generation, Dylan and the Beat poets had a substantial impact and influence on an adolescent Lyonhart.
“Of course I’d heard all of Dylan’s music and had his records, but Highway 61 Revisited,” he reflects, “that’s when it all came together for me.” Lyonhart says that the last track on that album, “Desolation Row” was the moment something snapped inside him, and that’s when he knew he had something to say, too.
During the late 1960s, the young self-taught guitarist spent the majority of his time in Greenwich Village, the urban birthplace but infinite mindscape of everything counterculture. As Lyonhart began stretching his artistic mind and crafting his own unique voice through his music and writing, he and other “angel-headed hipsters” found themselves in the audience of poetry readings and keeping time in the company of some of the original Beat daddies, such as Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and William S. Burroughs. The contemplative Lyonhart also found refuge and inspiration at Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage in The Bronx. He still frequents the both location and the legendary author’s poetry and short stories for comfort and vision.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he appeared on stage as a musician and was a published writer and music critic for publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine. In the 1990s, he was a regular performer at The Tinker Street Cafe in Woodstock, NY, The Bitter End in New York City, and numerous local festivals.
His performances left his audiences mesmerized with his surreptitious way of taking the unheard of, blending it into the obvious, and then delivering it in the key of “I’ve never thought about it that way.” His talent and artistry and the reputation of his selfless, gregarious, and giving spirit combined to gain Charles Lyonhart an almost instant and unwavering regional fan base.
With the release of his debut album Leap of Faith in 1997, he not only had the hearts of his fans, but he also caught eyes and ears of several fellow musicians, including the late and loved John Herald, whose tender lament “Martha: Last of the Passenger Pigeons” remains one of Charles’ favorite songs. After hearing the album, Herald described Charles as “one of the best singer songwriters he’d come across in ten years.” His second album Exception to the Rule followed soon after and was recorded with guitarist and friend Steve Raleigh. Lyonhart fell ill in 2001, shortly after releasing his third album Down to the Hard Line, which was recorded with his peers and collaborators Larry Campbell, Lincoln Schleifer, and Denny McDermott.
Charles contracted Hepatitis-C in the early 1970s. Hepatitis-C is a virus that that can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Due to the extensive damage that the virus had caused his liver and body over time, Charles was experiencing liver failure. His physicians placed him on the organ transplant waiting list.
During the Christmas and Hanukkah season of 2005, he received the gift of a lifetime—a donor had been found, and Charles underwent the transplant surgery that saved his life. Charles thrived after his transplant surgery and throughout his recuperation, even working on and releasing a new album with his working band, The Junkyard Angels. Titled Outside Looking In, the album was released in 2010.
Unfortunately, it was discovered that the Hepatitis-C virus that was still in his body had infected his donated liver. This was devastating news, but it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
There are treatments for Hepatitis-C that have incredible success rates for removing the virus completely from the body. With the support of his family and friends, Charles chose to begin this six-month long journey to wellness. However, as with most rainbows that the heavens arch down our way to Earth, there aren’t always pots of gold lying in wait at either end of them.
The medications required for Charles’ specialized treatment (Sovaldi and Ribavirin) are not only very expensive monetarily, but they also carry a heavy physiological tariff. Sovaldi costs the patient one-thousand dollars per pill, per day, and among many other unpleasant conditions, Ribavirin causes the patient gastrointestinal problems, fainting, memory loss, deep muscle and bone pain, anxiety, and situational depression.
The side effects of the medication and the illness itself have rendered Charles unable to work. In mid-2014, he was forced to close his business, and he has since been out of work. Although he is diligently working to gain disability benefits, the interim has left Charles with no income. Despite his having health insurance, medical co-payments and the day to day expenses all adult Americans have to face (namely--food, water, and shelter) have nearly depleted all of his savings.
Any two or three of the circumstances listed above are enough to send most of us shrinking into a darkness from which we’d scarcely know how to arise. True to his name, Lyonhart is facing all of it with courage that would quake the knees of the great and powerful Oz himself.
He cannot do it alone, but he won’t have to. The Universe to which Charles has gallantly given so much has conspired to give back to him.
On Sunday, June 21, 2015, the friends and musical family of Charles will come together for a very special evening of comfort, caring, fellowship, and love. The Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY, will be the site for a benefit concert in his honor. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the concert beginning at 7:00 p.m. Golden Circle Tickets are $55.00, and remaining seats are $35.00.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Marc Black, who had the idea to do this benefit concert for me, and I’d like to extend my gratitude to the artists who jumped on board as soon as they heard about it,” said Lyonhart.
“I feel like I am in a dream,” he continued. “I am beyond grateful for having the support of friends like this. They are an irreplaceable extension of my family—a true gift to my life.”
Scheduled to perform are Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams; Tom Pacheco; Marc Black (with Eric Parker, Pete Levin, and Mike Esposito); Joel Diamond; Lincoln Schleifer; Brian Hollander; Marty Kupersmith; and George Quinn, with a few special surprises planned throughout the event, as well.
What better way to spend a Sunday evening than to enjoy some of the best musical minds of our area and generation and to give to one whom we all hold so dearly? We look forward to seeing you there.