Folk singer Glenn Yarbrough dies at age 86

Glenn Yarbrough, the American folk singer has died at the age of 86. He was the lead singer with The Limeliters between 1959 and 1963, and had a prolific solo career, recording on various labels.

Yarbrough was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up in New York City. After leaving high school, he attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he roomed with Jac Holzman and began performing after he and Holzman attended a concert by Woody Guthrie.

During the Korean War he served in the U.S. Army as a codebreaker before joining the entertainment corps. After military service, he moved to South Dakota, helped organize square dances, and started appearing on local television shows. By the mid-1950s, he started performing in clubs in Chicago, where he met club owner Albert Grossman and performers including Odetta and Shel Silverstein. One of Elektra Records’ first artists, he was one of the first singers to record the traditional “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Among other career highlights, Yarbrough provided vocals for the Rankin/Bass animated versions of The Hobbit (1977) singing songs such as The Greatest Adventure, The Road Goes Ever On as well as The Return of the King (1980) singing “Frodo of the Nine Fingers” in addition to singing the title song in the 1966 holiday classic, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t. Yarbrough also performed Utah Composer Michael McLean’s Forgotten Carols, creating a cd of the show as well as taking it on the road to local audiences in the 1990s.

Glenn Yarbrough was also an accomplished sailor who owned and lived aboard three different sailboats: Armorel, all teak and still in operation; Jubilee, which Yarbrough helped build, taking three years; and the Brass Dolphin a Chinese junk design, and has, according to Yarbrough, sailed around the world except for the Indian Ocean.

Yarbrough lost his ability to sing due to complications from throat surgery at the age of 80. In his last year or so of life, he suffered from dementia and was cared for by his daughter Holly in Nashville, Tennessee. Holly recorded the album “Annie Get Your Gun” with her father in 1997. In May 2016, Holly announced that her father’s health had declined, and announced on August 12 that he had died the previous night.

“Dad was listening to Baby the Rain Must Fall when his breaths spaced out and he drifted up and out during the last chorus – catching a ride on the Perseids to his next Great Adventure. It was a very good death,” Once Yarbrough Burnett wrote.

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