Jon Hassell Dead at 84
The "Fourth World" avant-garde hero collaborated with Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and more
Published Jun 27, 2021Jon Hassell — the avant-garde figure and trumpeter who collaborated with the likes of Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel — has died. On Saturday night (June 26), Hassell's family confirmed his passing in a Facebook post. He was 84.
The news comes a year after Eno and friends set up a GoFundMe for the struggling Hassell to aid him with his "long-term health issues."
"After a little more than a year of fighting through health complications, Jon died peacefully in the early morning hours of natural causes," Hassell's family wrote in announcing his passing. "He cherished life and leaving this world was a struggle as there was much more he wished to share in music, philosophy, and writing."
Of the funds raised, the family stated: "All donations to Jon Hassell's GoFundMe will allow the tremendous personal archive of his music, much unreleased, to be preserved and shared with the world for years to come." The statement added that the family would "provide philanthropic gifts of scholarship and contributions to issues close to Jon's heart."
Born in Memphis, Hassell became a student of electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the American musician would first appear on Terry Riley's groundbreaking 1968 minimalism work In C. Hassell delivered his first solo album in 1977 with Vernal Equinox, which was recently reissued in 2020.
Vernal Equinox found Hassell embracing what he called the "Fourth World" school of thought — something he explained as "a kind of philosophical guideline, a creative posture, directed towards the conditions created by the intersection of technology with indigenous music and culture.
"The underlying goal is to provide a kind of creative midwifery to the inevitable merging of cultures while providing an antidote to a global 'monoculture' created by media colonization."
In 1980, Hassell would famously join Eno to explore such ideas with the album Fourth World Music Vol. 1: Possible Musics.
In addition to Hassell's solo material, his trumpet work could be heard on Talking Heads' Remain in Light album, Peter Gabriel's scores for Birdy and Passion (The Last Temptation of Christ) and Tears for Fears' "Standing on the Corner of the Third World," as well as multiple songs by Ry Cooder.
Most recently, Hassell released his 2018 album Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) and its 2020 companion piece Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two).