Jesse Winchester dies at 69; singer and songwriter

Jesse Winchester, 69, a U.S.-born singer who established himself in Canada after dodging the Vietnam War and who went on to write songs covered by Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett and Joan Baez, died of bladder cancer Friday at his home in Charlottesville, Va., according to his agent Keith Case.

Winchester's best-known songs include "Yankee Lady," "Biloxi," "Say What" and "Mississippi, You're on My Mind."

Artists as diverse as Reba McEntire, Wilson Pickett, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and the Everly Brothers have performed Winchester's pieces.

The first song he wrote, "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz," was one of his signature tunes. Patti Page, who in 1950 recorded the original "Tennessee Waltz," covered Winchester's version 50 years later.

Born May 17, 1944, in Bossier City, La., Winchester was raised in northern Mississippi and Memphis, Tenn., before graduating from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. in 1966.

An opponent of the Vietnam War, he moved to Montreal after receiving his draft notice, settling there for 36 years and becoming a Canadian citizen. He performed in the United States after President Carter's 1977 amnesty declaration and made it his home again in 2003.

Never known for political songs, Winchester consistently wrote and recorded pieces "of such melodic beauty, lyric gentility, and vulnerability as to take your breath away," a Times critic wrote in 2009.

— times staff and wire reports

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