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, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, 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!!!


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