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A Musical Tribute to Joe Brown Video

© Jim Herrington

We recently reported that British climbing legend Joe Brown had passed away at the age of 89. One of Joe's longtime friends and climbing partners, Dennis Gray, has performed a musical tribute. Dennis kindly shared this recording of himself singing and playing Tom Patey's 'The Legend of Joe Brown' with UKC and agreed to its inclusion in a video.

Here's a personal message from Dennis, sent to Joe's friends and the climbing media:

'Shortly before Joe died, and before he was no longer able we had a long conversation for we both realised that a reckoning was coming.

Joe was sanguine and emphasised he felt so lucky to have led the life he had been able to pursue. We both agreed that to have started climbing in the late 1940s had been so fortunate, with the opening up of the countryside with easier access and the ability that developed to first travel to climb in Europe, and then almost worldwide.

I have been privileged to climb with many outstanding climbers from the UK and abroad, but Joe was the most naturally talented rock climber of any that I tied onto a rope with.

Joe himself was never solemn for long, he loved life and one of my abiding memories is that we sang a lot when young. Joe's party piece was the operetta 'The Sergeant Major'. I do not know of any recording of this, but I do know he liked to laugh along at Tom Patey's wonderful song 'The Legend of Joe Brown'. There are two recordings extant of Tom playing and singing this in a couple of party settings, but unfortunately on each of these, key verses are missing, e,g. The one about the Mustagh Tower ascent.....'In the cold cold Karakoram' which is by mutual agreement a superb example of Tom's versifying ability, and on the other tape there is much background disturbance.

So not for ego, honest, I decided to send out a copy of myself playing and singing this as an MP3 cover. And I intend this as a tribute to Joe, who I was friends with for over 70 years.

For this MP3 recording I thank Paul Cherry who worked overnight to provide this at his Cotswold studio.'

Thanks to Geoff Birtles and Jim Herrington for providing photographs.


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Many in the climbing world, I'm sure, Dennis, will join me in giving thanks to you for this lovely tribute, using Patey's classic song.

PS. I think it's something of a disgrace that Alan has left on the wretched Dislike button here. He's rightly removed it from the main JB tribute thread, but here Dennis's tribute has already garnered an utterly tasteless Dislike.

18 Apr

Have a like from me Gordon.

19 Apr

BRILLIANT Dennis - think Joe, and all of us, smiled with you there!! wonderful tribute

19 Apr

Thanks very much Dennis - that was brilliant :)

19 Apr

Perfect - brings back that sense of climbing community that we all fell in love with. Does for me anyway!

Great job Dennis Gray

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