Terry Callier, a soul and jazz singer and guitarist who collaborated with Massive Attack and Beth Orton, died yesterday at his home in Chicago, Stereogum reports. He was 67.
Callier, a veteran musician who released a handful of critically acclaimed jazz-folk albums in the Seventies and toured with George Benson and Gil Scott-Heron, had scant commercial success at the time, and had given up his musical career in the Eighties to raise his daughter. He was working at the University of Chicago as a computer programmer in the early Nineties when his music was rediscovered in England, sparking a career revival.
Callier was born in Chicago and was friends with Curtis Mayfield and the singer Jerry Butler as a child. He began singing in doo-wop groups as a teenager and auditioned for Chess Records in 1962 when he was 17, recording his debut single “Look at Me Now.” Callier told The Guardian in 2004 that although Chess invited Callier to tour with Muddy Waters and Etta James, his mother wouldn’t let him, and he went to college instead, where he discovered folk music and John Coltrane. Callier picked up guitar from a friend in his college dorm, and began playing coffeehouses before signing with Prestige Records in 1964 to record his first LP, The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier. He released five more albums, including 1972’s Occasional Rain and 1974’s I Just Can’t Help Myself. His 1978 album, Turn You to Love, was his last for 20 years.
Callier gave up music in 1983 when his 12-year-old daughter came to live with him, and he worked for the University of Chicago by day and studied for a degree in sociology at night. In 1991, the London label Acid Jazz asked to re-release Callier’s 1983 single “I Don’t Want to See Myself (Without You).” The renewed interest in Callier brought him performing gigs in England, and he contributed to Beth Orton’s 1997 Best Bit EP. The following year, he released a new album of his own, Timepeace, and kept busy recording and touring for the rest of his live. Callier’s most recent album, 2009’s Hidden Conversations, was produced by Massive Attack.