The people singer Invoice Staines used to inform a narrative in regards to the oddest line in his best-known track, “A Place within the Choir,” whose lyrics have a good time the range of the animal kingdom and, by implication, the human one.
Because of quite a few cowl variations and a best-selling image e-book, numerous youngsters and adults might sing you the refrain:
All God’s critters bought a spot within the choir,
Some sing low, some sing larger,
Some sing out loud on a phone wire,
Some simply clap their palms, or paws, or something they’ve bought.
However what in regards to the line that ends one of many verses? “The otter hasn’t bought a lot to say, and the porcupine talks to himself.” What’s up with that porcupine?
The road, as Mr. Staines usually associated, got here from a tenting journey he and his spouse, Karen Elrod Staines, took to the Tobacco Root Mountains in southwest Montana. Mendacity awake of their tent at 4 a.m., he heard an odd chattering outdoors.
“And I figured, Effectively, they’ve landed,” he instructed the story to an viewers in 2009. However when he peered out the tent flap, it wasn’t extraterrestrials; it was a porcupine speaking to itself.
Mr. Staines died on Dec. 5 at his house in Rollinsford, N.H. He was 74.
His spouse mentioned the trigger was prostate most cancers.
Ms. Staines, who works in particular training, mentioned the track, which first appeared on Mr. Staines’s 1979 album, “The Whistle of the Jay,” didn’t leap out at both of them as a profession spotlight.
“When Invoice wrote ‘P.I.C.’ and performed it for me once I bought house from faculty, we each shook our heads and mentioned, ‘I don’t know if it is a keeper or not,’” she mentioned by e-mail. “Clearly and fortuitously, we have been mistaken.”
The track has been lined by Peter, Paul and Mary; Pink Grammer; Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy; and lots of others. A rousing stay efficiency by the Irish group Celtic Thunder on YouTube has been seen over seven million occasions.
“Songs are like youngsters you care about,” Mr. Staines, who recorded virtually 30 albums, instructed The Register of Yarmouth, Mass., in 2013. “You write a track and it’s born and you need to nurture it awhile and it grows up wholesome and powerful after which it develops relationships with individuals who don’t have something to do with you. ‘A Place within the Choir’ has a lifetime of its personal. It’s like a toddler that’s grown up and gone away.”
William Russell Staines was born on Feb. 6, 1947, in Medford, Mass., to William Henry and Dorothy (Trask) Staines. He grew up in Lexington, Mass., and two boyhood buddies, Dick and John Curtis, have been the catalysts for his performing profession.
“Once I was round 11, Dick bought a guitar, so after all I needed to get one,” Mr. Staines instructed The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., in 2018. “It was a Sears Silvertone three-quarter-size guitar with a cowboy painted on it. I sanded the cowboy off the entrance, and Dick and John and I began somewhat rock ’n’ roll band, with contact pickups on our acoustic guitars.”
Earlier than lengthy, he had gone solo and begun writing his personal songs, upgrading to a full-size guitar, which he performed in an uncommon approach: upside-down.
“Once I bought my first guitar, I picked it up and held it the proper approach, the right-handed approach,” he instructed the Quincy newspaper. “However I’m left-handed and it simply didn’t really feel proper. So I flipped it over and figured this should be the left-handed approach of enjoying. You realize, a D chord continues to be a D chord, so I simply needed to get to it in a different way.”
That strategy gave his selecting a considerably totally different sound, since he was hitting the excessive strings together with his thumb. At the least one fellow guitarist was impressed.
“About 4 years in the past I met this fellow in California who was a beautiful guitar participant, who mentioned, ‘I actually like the way in which your type sounds,’” Mr. Staines instructed The Wenatchee World of Washington State in 2009. “And I noticed him a yr in the past, and he’d went out and acquired a left-handed guitar and was enjoying it right-handed. In order that’s even one step to the weirder.”
Mr. Staines wrote numerous songs. Many evoked the pure world, like “River,” considered one of his finest identified, with its wistful chorus:
You rolling previous river, you altering previous river,
Let’s you and me, river, run all the way down to the ocean.
Others have been character sketches — “pensive, probing narratives made particularly memorable by their capacity to translate the widespread particulars of widespread lives into songs of unusual eloquence and wonder,” as L.E. McCullough put it in The Austin American-Statesman in 1986. There was, as an illustration, “The Roseville Fair,” a few couple’s first assembly and their enduring love. Amongst those that lined the tune was Nanci Griffith, who referred to as Mr. Staines “the Woody Guthrie of my technology of songwriters.” Ms. Griffith, who died in August, credited Mr. Staines with encouraging her in her personal profession.
Mr. Staines, an old-school troubadour who traveled tens of 1000’s of miles yearly to carry out, began out in espresso retailers and different small venues. Early in his profession, he was M.C. of the Sunday hootenanny on the famed Membership 47 in Cambridge, Mass.
He was nonetheless a street warrior half a century later. His most up-to-date album, in 2018, was referred to as “The Third Million Miles.”
Along with Ms. Staines, whom he married in 1976, Mr. Staines is survived by a son, Bowen Keith Staines, and a brother, Stephen.
Mr. Staines had one other expertise: yodeling. He typically gave workshops on the talent. In 1975, he received a yodeling contest on the Kerrville People Pageant in Texas — “defeating some crestfallen Swiss yodelers,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.