Quintessential new age composer/guitarist Michael Hedges, known for his unique two-handed picking style, died in an apparent automobile accident earlier this week in Mendocino County, Calif. Hedges was 43.
Hedges' body was found at the bottom of an embankment around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday just off State Route 128, approximately 100 miles northwest of San Francisco, according to Lt. Kevin Broin of the Mendocino County coroner's office. Road construction workers discovered Hedges' body, which was thrown from his 1986 BMW, and reported the crash to the California Highway Patrol. Authorities speculate that the crash occurred days earlier.
The car appeared to have skidded off a slick, curvy road, slid down the embankment and flipped over, ejecting Hedges in the process. The guitarist apparently died from internal injuries, according to Broin.
California law requires that a toxicology report be generated for all people who die in car accidents. Although the results of Hedges' toxicology screen won't be available for a few weeks, Broin says that, based on the evidence, it is unlikely that alcohol and drugs were involved in the accident.
Hedges helped establish the Windham Hill record label in the early 1980s. He released many albums to critical acclaim, including Aerial Boundaries, Live On The Double Planet and Oracle. This January, Hedges was to perform on the Guitar Summit Tour with Sharon Isbin, Herb Ellis and Rory Block.
Hedges was born on Dec. 31, 1953, in Sacramento, Calif., grew up in Enid, Okla., and had been living and recording in Mendocino County.
Growing up, Hedges played guitar and flute and studied classical guitar at Phillips University in Enid, Okla. He earned his degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore then studied electronic music at Stanford University. It was at Stanford that Hedges first met Windham Hill co-founder Will Ackerman.
During his career, Hedges worked with such notables as Jerry Garcia, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Cure, Beautiful South, the English Beat and Thomas Dolby.
At the time of his death, Hedges was working on his next album, tentatively titled Torched.
Hedges is survived by his mother, Ruth Ipsen; sister, Carol Hedges; two brothers, Craig Hedges and Brendan Hedges; and two sons.