Greg Trooper passed away on January 15, 2017 at the age of 61. Although he had been dealing with pancreatic cancer for some time, the singer-songwriter lived up to his last name, performing shows up until the end.
Chimesfreedom is a big fan of Trooper’s work, and we posted about his songs in the past. The recent sad news reminds us both how much we will miss Trooper and how much we enjoy his songs.
If you are unfamiliar with Trooper’s work, you cannot go wrong with any of his albums. He can break your heart with a love song, haunt you with a tale of murder, and give you new perspectives. With just a voice and a guitar, he created magic. Yet, he never received the acclaim and popularity he deserved.
Trooper, who was born on January 13 in 1956, brought a unique view, humor, and intelligence to his songs. He could make you laugh or cry, having earned his diverse take on the world. Trooper was born in New Jersey, but he later lived in Austin, New York City, Kansas, and Nashville before ending up in Brooklyn.
Rolling Stone‘s headline on its article about Trooper’s passing stressed Trooper’s work writing songs for artists like Vince Gill. But Trooper had a warm wonderful voice that made you think this was a guy you’d like to know (and by reports of those who knew him, he was a great guy to know).
Steve Earle once said he “coveted” Trooper’s voice. Trooper also could do a great cover, and he created one of my favorite Bob Dylan covers with “I’ll Keep It With Mine” off of his Popular Demons (1998) album. And he gave that voice to many characters throughout his own songs.
I first fell in love with Trooper’s work in 2001 when he released Straight Down Rain, although I would later go back and discover his earlier albums. He had me as a life-long fan the first time I heard “Sometimes It Takes a Hurricane,” a plea for social justice. “Sometime it takes no more than a drop of water/ Sometimes it takes a hurricane.”
Perhaps Trooper never received broader fame because he does not fit squarely into one genre. Some describe him as a singer-songwriter, some as a country singer, and some as a folk singer with a touch of Memphis soul. Others place him in the realm of Americana or alt-country.
The title song from his next album, Floating (2003), comes from the folk tradition of ageless murder ballads. It is a beautiful song that will haunt you long after you hear the final lines. In some ways, it was courageous for Trooper to sing an unusual song like this one.
Floating also contained one of Trooper’s most touching love songs that showed his love of Irish music, “Inisheer.” He named the song after one of the Aran Islands off the mainland of Ireland.
Chimesfreedom previously wrote about “Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas).” But it is worth posting again here as one of Trooper’s most beautiful songs. Other admirers of the wonderful song include Steve Earle (who covered Trooper’s song “Little Sister” for the U.K. B-side of Earle’s “Copperhead Road” single).
“I am the greatest,”
he said with a grin;
But he was talking about you,
Not about him;
And was teaching me
The meaning of Christmas.
On “This I’d Do,” a song from Trooper’s 2005 album Make It Through This World, Trooper wrote a song where a lover makes promises. In doing so, he took a typical love-song scenario and made it seem both touching and new.
Finally, Trooper shows his sense of humor and love of Irish music with “Mary Of The Scots In Queens.” The song appeared on his final album of original songs, Incident on Willow Street (2013). It also features one of the funniest music videos you will see anywhere.
Those are a sampling of some of my favorite Greg Trooper songs. Again, you cannot go wrong with any of Trooper’s albums. But if one were looking for a place to start, one place would be his outstanding 2015 live album, Live at the Rock Room.
Our thoughts go out to his friends and family, including his wife Claire Mullally, who often sang with him. Trooper will be greatly missed by his fans, who included Billy Bragg, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Fullbright, Allison Moorer, and me. But we will keep enjoying the music. RIP Mr. Trooper.
What are your favorite Greg Trooper songs? Leave your two cents in the comments.
(Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)