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Folk Singer Utah Phillips Dies In California


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Nate Carlisle and Lindsay Whitehurst

Folk singer and activist Bruce "Utah" Phillips, whose songs included tales of the state's working class and tragedies, died Friday of congestive heart failure.

Phillips, 73, died in Nevada City, Calif., where he resided. While not among the biggest names in folk music, Phillips described himself as the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest" and was an influence for artists such as Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Tom Waits, who have recorded his songs. An album Phillips recorded with Ani DiFranco received a Grammy nomination.

"Many artists extract from working and poor people for authenticity," friend and environmental writer Jordan Fisher Smith said. "He also gave it back ... he extracted the meaning and gave it back to the people experiencing it."

Phillips songs included "John D. Lee," a recounting of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Another song, "Scofield Mine Disaster" recalled the 1900 central Utah coal mine explosion that killed 200 people.

"A miner's life is hard I know," Phillips wrote and sang. "His world is dark and far below/While he starves and goes in rags/He's cheaper than the coal he digs."

Phillips son, Duncan Phillips, who lives in Salt Lake City, said his father was enthralled with Utah's working class, particularly Mormons and their folklore.

You can read the rest of the obituary here.

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