WILLIAM O. [BILL] GINN (1951–2004). William O “Bill” Ginn, pianist and arranger, was born in Mississippi on October 21, 1951.
Raised in Mississippi, Ginn graduated in 1974 from the University of Texas music school with a degree in jazz theory and composition. For most of the next decade, he was a member of the Austin jazz band Passenger (featuring bassist Roscoe Beck and guitarist Mitch Watkins). In town, Passenger backed singers including Eliza Gilkyson and Carmen Bradford. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ginn and Passenger toured and recorded with Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.
Heralded as a talented pianist and arranger across multiple musical genres, Ginn worked with singer Jennifer Warnes on her acclaimed album Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1987), and he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) for the song "The Singer Must Die".
He toured with Warnes and Cohen during the 1980s and 1990s. He also recorded and performed with Joe Ely during the 1980s. Ginn was noted for his musical arrangements for such artists and groups as Stephen Bruton, Carole King, Alejandro Escovedo, and Asleep at the Wheel. In 1993 he served as musical director of Leonard Cohen’s United States and Canadian tour. He also composed film scores, and his projects included The Man with Two Brains (1983) and Winter People (1989).
Bill Ginn devoted his life to song, a pianist and arranger who worked in realms including jazz, rock and classical. He understood music in a very refined and technical way. But his greatest attribute was his sensitivity, his feeling for textures.
"Bill had a love of beauty. He had an understanding of beauty," recalls the Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Warnes. "He understood emotion. He had a sense of propriety. . . . Musically, he could match you emotion for emotion. If you wanted to fly, he'd fly with you. And if you wanted to hold back, he was right there with you. A perfect team player."
Suffering from hepatitis C, Ginn left Texas and moved back to Mississippi in 2001. He died of liver failure on October 8, 2004, in Lexington, Mississippi.
Click below to view Bill's youtube performances: