The Soothing Genius of Leo Kottke

I can still vividly remember the first time I heard Kottke play.

It was during those early college days, as my roommate and I were just starting to feel each other out. Discovering how much we had in common (and also, not); what we liked and disliked (musically, ideologically, liturgically, snack-food-wise, etc.); negotiating how to best mesh our schedules and habits and tendencies. He was an extreme morning person, for example. And I was/am not. (I’d heard of Extreme Mornings before, of course, but thought they only existed in fairy tales.) He regularly suffered from insomnia; I, unintentionally cruel, could drop off at a moment’s notice. But it worked; wonderfully so. And this discovery was a perfect example.

I was returning from some forgettable errand when it happened. I walked absent-mindedly into our small, moderately clean dorm room, and this hit me in the face.

Right between the eyes.

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We’ve been friends ever since.

Now, I don’t think we’re friends because he introduced me to Leo Kottke. But it certainly didn’t hurt. (He also gave me my first conscious taste of Jim Croce.  But that’s a story for another day.)

In the decades since, the 22-track Essential Leo Kottke has become one of my most reliable musical “comfort foods,” always reminding me of those four crazy-but-unforgettable years. The sound of his voice always brings a smile to my face. And his instrumental tracks still amaze me: a mind-blowing combination of dazzling technical mastery and soothing melody. Great stuff.

In the hopes that I’m not the only one gladdened by his music, here’s a Friday uplift for y’all — the Les Barricades Mistérieuses-esque “The Fisherman.”

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About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • Rae Claire

    Well said! My response to Leo’s music is much like yours. Isn’t is a beautiful mystery how it reaches you (a Christian) and me (the other one) so effectively. It’s a reminder that we all have much in common despite our differences.

  • Linda Ingrid Lundgren

    I’m right with ya…Leo is the BEST!!!