Songwriter, touring musician, part-time graphic artist, photographer, tinker and thinker…as well as artist and poet.
So reads his self-description at the end of his first book, “Works on Paper.”
Add to that, keen observer of nature and beings, troubadour poet, friend and brother, son and sweetheart, fixer, fire lookout…and the picture of the amazing human being that was TR Ritchie comes more clearly into focus.
TR died after a brief battle with cancer, one day after Pete Seeger.
From his obituary:
TR Ritchie passed on from this world on Jan. 29, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash. He will be missed by the many who loved him and loved his music. He was attended by his partner, Tracy Spring, and friend, Albert Snow. He is survived by his siblings, Ann Meyers, Ken Dye and Vicki Chase, and many nephews and nieces, including Melanie Pouland, Rachel Nicks and AnnDee McGlory.
TR was born in Olympia, Washington on Dec. 29, 1946. His parents moved back to Kansas soon after his birth and he spent most of his growing years in Blackwell, Oklahoma.
TR was a self-taught musician; he bought his first guitar while studying journalism in college, wrote his first songs, and never looked back.
For several years he divided his time learning his craft while working seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service as a firefighter and, later, a fire lookout in the mountains of northeastern Oregon. He eventually settled in the Northwest, and in the late ‘70s busked on the streets of Seattle’s Pike Street Market while writing the songs that would eventually become his first recording, “Not Just Another Pretty Songwriter,” a cassette-only album (later released on CD) that nonetheless caught the ear of regional music critics.
In 1983, TR was one of two-dozen songwriters featured on a regionally best-selling compilation album produced by radio station KEZX-FM, and he soon began to tour further afield. His second recording, “Changing Of The Guard,” followed, and with it his first national tour.
In 1994, TR moved to the canyon country of southeast Utah. He continued to tour nationally, both as a solo artist and in support of longtime partner Cosy Sheridan. In 2008 they co-founded the Moab Folk Camp, a week-long series of music workshops held in conjunction with the Moab Folk Festival.
In the summer of 2012 he returned to the Pacific Northwest to concentrate on his solo career.
TR’s songwriting awards and accolades are many: a two-time finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk contest; top honors from the Napa Valley (Calif.), Sisters (Ore.) and Jubilee (Colo.) Folk Festival songwriting competitions; the only double-showcase songwriter in 2001 and again in 2005 at the Walnut Valley Festival’s New Artist Showcase in Kansas, and a 2005 finalist at the Mountain Stage Newsong Festival.
His CD discography includes “Not Just Another Pretty Songwriter” in 1984; “Changing of the Guard” in 1990, “Homeground” in 1995; “My Father’s Wildest Dream” in 2001 and “Wild Horses” in 2009, as well as a book of poems, “Works On Paper” in 2011.
Eleven days before TR passed, musician friends from all over the country drove and flew into Bellingham for a very powerful TR Ritchie concert, in which some favorite TR’s songs were sang back to him. It was a stunning performance. He enjoyed it immensely, and was a wonderful tribute to not only TR’s great art, but also to the strong connections he had forged in the music community and beyond. It was deeply moving, and we are so glad we were able to sing and play for him that night. We know he heard us loud and clear.
On Sunday, February 9th from 6-9pm, in the Fairhaven Library, we will gather in his honor once again to share food and swap some tunes. Please visit the “Love for TR Ritchie” facebook page for more information. As TR might say, “doesn’t get much better than that.”
VISITOR by TR Ritchie
death is in the room with me
but he does not look like death
he looks more like a friend
dropped by with his guitar
to pick a few tunes
have a couple beers
and laugh with me over the
sorry state of the world
death looks like the guy
i hung out with in high school
neither on of us were very popular
but we had grand dreams and knew
all we had to do was bide our time
and we would come into our glory
death looks like the old horse packer
i worked with in Montana who taught me
how to balance the load and
throw a tight hitch so nothing came loose
crossing those high steep passes
on rough trails.
death looks like the short order cook
in that all night joint on First Avenue
back in seventy-three who said to everyone who
sat down at the counter, mister, you look
hungry. what’ll it be?
death looks like my mother, six years old,
squinting at the camera in the winter sun
wearing her favorite red hat and mittens,
the family dog gazing up into her face
like she was the center of the universe
death looks like the mailman
whistling down the street
bringing me a long overdue love letter
death looks like my big brother
who let me win at checkers sometimes
and taught me how to ride a bicycle.
I know that guy.
we’ve been friends all my life.
If I’m not wrong we’ll be
swapping tunes for years to come.
doesn’t get much better than that.
About TR from his press kit:
Winner/Finalist of these Songwriter Showcases:
2008 Suzanne Milsap Songwriter Showcase
Kerrville Folk Festival NewFolk Showcase
Sister’s Folk Festival Songwriting Contest
Walnut Valley Festival Songwriting Contest
Napa Valley Folk Festival Songwriter’s Contest
Silverton Jubilee Folk Festval Songwriter’s Contest
Mountain Stage Folk Festival Songwriter Contest
Wildflower Arts & Music Festival songwriting contest
Tumbleweed Festival Songwriter Contest
TR Ritchie writes award-winning, lyric-driven music – in fact, he is such a wordsmith that his latest project is not a collection of songs at all but an anthology of poems and illustrations entitled Works On Paper, compiled from a year of writing and selections from sketch books fill with pen and ink drawings accumulated during Ritchie’s long career as a traveling musician.
“Songs. Poetry. Drawings – they’re all part of the same thing,” Ritchie asserts, “A response to what I witness in the world, that’s all. And there’s different ways of expressing that response. Some ways don’t require songs. Some don’t even require words. For me, the way of art has always been more about a point of perspective than any one means of expression.”
That said, these days readings from his book have become an integral part of Ritchie’s performance, and coupled with those award-winning songs depict a distinctive artistic presence, by turns witty and insightful, lyric imagery always vividly drawn. Doug Bright, writing in Heritage Music Review says of Ritchie, “(He) hits his target with a concise forcefulness that makes most other songwriters sound like poorly-designed robots.”
Self-taught as a musician, Ritchie bought his first guitar while studying journalism in college, wrote his first songs, and never looked back. For several years he divided his time learning his craft while working seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service as a fire fighter and, later, a fire lookout in the mountains of northeastern Oregon. Ritchie eventually settled in the northwest, and in the late 70’s busked on the streets of Seattle’s Pike Street Market while writing the songs that would eventually become his first recording, “Not Just Another Pretty Songwriter,” a cassette-only album that nonetheless caught the ear of regional music critics.
“These are great songs,” wrote Gene Stout in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “written by a man with keen insight and a wonderful sense of humor.”
In 1983 Ritchie was one of two dozen songwriters featured on a regionally best-selling compilation album produced by radio station KEZX-FM and he soon began to tour further afield. His second recording, Changing Of The Guard, followed, and with it Ritchie’s first national tour. Songwriting awards accumulated: a two-time finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk contest; top honors from the Napa Valley (CA), Sisters (OR) and Jubilee (CO) Folk Festival songwriting competitions; the only double-showcase songwriter in 2001 and again in 2005 at the Walnut Valley Festival’s New Artist Showcase in Kansas, and a 2005 finalist at theMountain Stage Newsong Festival. He won the Snowbird Music Festival (UT) contest and was invited back as a mainstage headliner in 2009. three more CDs have followed, 1995’s Homeground, 2001’s My Father’s Wildest Dreamand his most recent, 2009’s Wild Horses.
After seventeen years in the Northwest Ritchie relocated to the canyon country of southeast Utah, and in 2003 he lent advisory support to the newly established Moab Folk Festival, appeared as the first mainstage performer and served as festival emcee. From Utah he continued to tour nationally, both as a solo artist and in support of long-time musical partner Cosy Sheridan, and in 2008, along with Sheridan, founded the Moab Folk Camp, a week-long series of music workshops held in conjunction with the Moab Folk Festival. Then, in September of 2012 he returned to the Pacific Northwest to concentrate on his solo career. He currently makes his home in Bellingham, WA.
Armed with an acoustic guitar, a keen eye for observation and an ear for language, Ritchie plies his trade. Spontaneous, engaging and spirited, he serves up his music with technical grace while unwinding the narrative of his life. No bells or whistles here – what you see is what you get: first-rate songs, written with a poet’s love of language and a storyteller’s turn of phrase and performed with unapologetic enthusiasm. He must be doing something right – progress reports arrive all the time – not only from professional music critics but from ordinary people with whom his music resonates deeply.
“I love your writing…clear, concise, using very simple language, and damned clever without ever seeming like you are trying to be.” – Eric / Washington
“Thank you for writing such thoughtful songs; I know they must be impacting many people. I thought you might like to know that they impacted me in a very meaningful way.” – Rosemary / Texas
“Terrific! Thanks so much.” – Katie / Ohio
“You are an exceptional songwriter and performer.” – Neil / Wyoming
“I love your music. Keep up the good work.” – Don / California.
“I attended a show in the 90s and it changed my life.” – Stephen / Utah
A REVIEW: TR Ritchie – Wild Horses
Going from busking at Pike Street Market to kicking it at Kerrville, Napa and Walnut Valley, this unreconstructed folkie sounds like the folk music we’d have been listening to all along if Alice’s Restaurant hadn’t become a hit. Ritchie writes, plays and sings with heart and conviction and an innocence that you wouldn’t expect from someone that’s been around a few rough and competitive blocks. A dreamer with at least seven toes on the ground, Ritchie is a very solid link on a very solid folkie chain that somehow manages to command your attention without demanding it. Killer stuff.
– CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor & Publisher
“Exceptionally fine songs… Ritchie is as eloquent as anyone can be.” – Smokey Koelsch / THE CATALYST
Exquisitely insightful, well crafted and artfully illuminated; his songs are gems. – Joe Henry; Acoustic Sounds Cafe, Little Rock AR
Ritchie hits his target with a concise forcefulness that makes most other songwriters sound like poorly-designed robots. – Doug Bright; Heritage Music Review. Seattle WA
Homeground is perfect! The album is flawless. Every track is wonderful. – Charlie Mann, Editor; The Maverick Report. Austin TX
So many good songs…wonderfully strong writing – Steve Gillette/ songwriter/ author of SONGWRITING And The CREATIVE PROCESS
TR Ritchie is funny and serious…or both! – 3 Rivers Folklife Society; Kennewick, WA
Savvy gems…crisp, clean vignettes… spectacular imagery…solid musicianship. – Kevin McCarthy; Celtic-Folk Reviews
Lyrical Brilliance! – Eastside Week; Bellevue, WA