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Published: 2010/07/29

Ben Keith 1937-2010

Photo by Danny Clinch

Pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith passed away yesterday in Northern California. Keith first gained national renown in 1961 when he performed on Patsy Cline’s song “I Fall to Pieces.” Ten years later when Neil Young was recording Harvest in Keith’s home base of Nashville, Keith joined the sessions, beginning a relationship that continued to the present, as Keith was in the midst of spending time at Young’s home working on new material. Keith was a particularly animated presence in the concert film Neil Young Trunk Show directed by Jonathan Demme, which capture Young’s tour in 2007-08 with Keith, bass player Rick Rosas and drummer Ralph Molina. Keith also recently logged some dates with Young’s wife Pegi as she toured in support of her latest disc, Foul Deeds. The pedal steel player was born in 1937, enjoyed a career that also saw him perform and record with Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, David Crosby, Jewel and many others.


There are 11 comments associated with this post

Jimmy Ray July 29, 2010, 18:37:11

Ben Keith was always a beautiful, understated voice on an instrument that too often lends itself to cliche and excess. Ben could be counted on to add just the right touch of atmosphere, sensitive to the needs of the song. Probably best known for his contributions to Neil Young’s music through the years, he was no doubt a valued collaborator, and I sense that he was a source of much inspiration and a steady hand. A musician’s musician, he’ll be missed by many of us.

Joe July 29, 2010, 21:13:03

RIP Ben Keith! Simply a fantastic musician!

tom smith July 29, 2010, 22:26:06

Ben had just finished producing johnny j and the hitmen’s latest cd at audiophile studios in new orleans in april 2010. he mentioned that he was having breathing issues, but nothing more than that. johnny j had talked to Ben by phone at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch on Thursday, July22, 2010 concerning some changes Ben wanted Johnny J to make on the cd and Ben thought it was good enough to maybe put it out on Neil Young’s lable. That was the last time ben and Johnny J spoke. Ben was a quiet man of few words and a wonderful musician and friend. He will be truly missed. Rest In Peace.

Tom Smith July 29, 2010, 22:33:37

I forgot to mention in my previous comment that when Joohnny J spoke to Ben on Thursday, July 22, 2010, that Ben said that he had fallen down and hurt some of his ribs and had struck his face and heat, but that he was in bed at the ranch recouperating and being taken care of by the ladies there. Johnny J said that Ben sounded good and in no distress at that time. Johnny J said that he kind of had a funny feeling about the telephone conversation however.

Kase July 31, 2010, 01:18:39

Like a thief in the night. Bless you Ben and everyone that loved you. I too believe Ben was a big part of Neil’s success. Interesting part of this story is how you never know when you will meet a true friend like Neil did in Nashville when he met Ben. I saw him in Omaha with Neil in 2009 and enjoyed the show immensely. Appreciate everyday as you never know if Tonight’s the Night.

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Rima February 14, 2012, 03:17:42

See, now you need to do a new vosiren of the classic scenario you did with the tux, the keys, and the tray of mud!

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