A Tributary Toward the Future

Well known and respected folk singer U. Utah Phillips announced his retirement well over a year ago in a letter to friends. Fellow folk musician Jimmy Landry passed his letter on to Sojourners. In it, Phillips explains his retirement, and details his love of his profession. An excerpt of that letter follows.

October 6, 1995

Dear Friends,

This is U. Utah Phillips talking to you from the home front. Several years ago I was to have my left hand operated on. A pre-operative electrocardiogram revealed that my heart was in serious trouble. Apparently I had had a heart attack some time ago. I said to the cardiologist, ôIt must have been some lousy day, to miss a heart attack.ö

In early September, my friend and doctor, Brad Miller, examined me just before I was to leave town on tour. I felt tired, anxious, and generally out of sorts. Brad's examination revealed a very slow heartbeat and very low blood pressure. So I canceled the tour.

After talking a lot with the doctor, the cardiologist, and my wife, Joanna Robinson, I have decided to stop touring and to reduce performing to a minimum. I know that this is a chore and a trial for those who have put so much effort into producing upcoming shows. I despise canceling. But I'm at a place where very difficult choices have to be made. So I'm making them.

Joanna and I will have to figure out another way to make a living. Prospects? Well, there's the song book which, with the help of the Rex Foundation, is nearing completion. Also recording projectsùone with Ani DiFranco, another with Rosalie Sorrelsùand hundreds of hours of live performance tapes might be boiled down to self-produced recordings. How about a syndicated radio show of interviews, ruminations, live recording excerpts, and rational politics?

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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