Vince Martin, an influential singer-songwriter in New York’s Greenwich Village and Florida’s Coconut Grove folk scenes, died in a nursing home facility near his native Sheepshead Bay, New York surrounded by family. Martin was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and was hospitalized in March. He was 81.
Todd Kwait, who directed the 2010 documentary Vagabondo! about Martin’s life, confirmed the details of his death to Rolling Stone. “He was a dear friend for a long time and had a positive spirit about life,” said Kwait. “He loved people, he loved to be out and he had a sharp mind.” Martin is survived by his daughter, Cara and his three grandchildren, who live in Brooklyn.
Martin’s career began when he recorded the 1956 pop song “Cindy, Oh Cindy,” with the Tarriers. The song was Martin’s only Top 40 hit and peaked at Number Nine. Eddie Fisher covered the song and his version broke the Top 40 in the same year. “Cindy, Oh Cindy” was revived in 1962 when the Beach Boys released a standalone cover that would later appear as a bonus track on reissues of Surfin’ Safari/Surfin’ U.S.A.
Martin’s pop contributions were overshadowed by his influential folk career. In Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, Martin formed a duo with singer-songwriter Fred Neil. They released what would be a seminal folk-rock album Tear Down These Walls in 1964, with musicians John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Felix Pappalardi of Mountain. The record has been cited as a major influence on the burgeoning folk scene by bands from Spoonful to the Byrds and the Grateful Dead.
Soon after, Martin was signed to and released two solo albums on Capitol Records. The first, 1969’s If The Jasmine Don’t Get You … The Bay Breeze Will, is regarded as an early folk gem. It was recorded with the same band Bob Dylan had just finishing playing with to record his album Nashville Skyline.
When Martin moved to south Florida in the early 1970s, he became similarly influential in Miami’s Coconut Grove scene of the 1960s, out of which David Crosby and Joni Mitchell emerged. His second album, Vince Martin, was released in 1973.
In more recent years, Martin gained an unlikely fan in Thurston Moore. According to Kwait, the Sonic Youth guitarist met Martin at a show in New York and expressed gratitude for Martin’s obscure folk-rock album, If The Jasmine Don’t Get You … The Bay Breeze Will. The encounter with Moore spurred Martin’s desire to record. In 2003, he released what would be his final album, Full Circle, on a small New York label. He remained active in music ever since.