Kate Rice


Pianist George Winston recently passed away, which sucks on a number of levels. I’ve been a fan since the early to mid-’80s, the apex for what was once referred to as “New Age” music. 

Although I’m not sure George truly fits that mold. Yeah, some of his pieces are “new age-y,” but many of his works are intricate piano masterpieces. I’ve had friends over the years who’ve complained about “new-age” piano vs. “classical” piano (and they say I’m a music snob!). Yes, many of his compositions sound simple compared to the classical genre, but here’s the thing: Simple doesn’t always mean bad. (To be clear, sometimes simple, new age-y stuff is bad. But not George.) And, just because something sounds simple doesn’t mean it actually is simple. 

The first GW piece I remember hearing is “Thanksgiving,” from his December album. It’s a slow, melancholy song that pairs well with a rainy — or better yet, snowy — day. Even though it’s Christmassy, I’ll listen to it year-round. 

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After falling in love with December, I added Autumn and Winter into Spring to my collection (cassette, of course, because — ’80s). Then came Summer and Forest. Part of the reason I like Autumn and Winter into Spring a bit more is because they’re a bit moodier and darker. But we’re not talking funeral dirge, just…more contemplative.

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In 1996, I was working in a music store (not gonna lie: This was a freakin’ great gig) when Linus and Lucy – The Music of Vince Guaraldi was released. Often, we’d open the new releases to entice the public into the store. (OK, that’s the official story. It was mostly because we wanted to listen to whatever we were vibin’, within family-friendly standards.) 

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for years with no way of knowing what it is, who the artist is — literally all you have are fragments of a tune? That was me with “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” from the time I was a little kid ‘til that day in the store when the notes of the first track reverberated through my soul…

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It was like a movie moment, y’all. Everything froze; all I could do was gasp, transfixed by this song that I could finally, finally listen to outside of my head! Anyone who loves the classic Charlie Brown music will love and appreciate this entire album. It’s an upbeat, feel-good collection, even if you haven’t been searching for its songs since childhood.

That’s not the only GW tune that sparked childhood memories (although it was certainly the strongest). Somewhere in grade school music class, we sang a little ditty that went something like this:

“On the ancient castle tower, cold the moonlight falls. Silent geese fly overhead, lonely floats their call…”

Again, remember — no internet, no streaming — no way for me to look up where this tune might have come from. Flash forward to 2004 and GW’s newest release, Montana – a Love Story. The song “Music Box (Kojo No Tsuki)” hit, and once again I was flooded with childhood memories and a bomb dopamine rush.

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George Winston used to come to Casper through ARTCORE. I was lucky to watch and listen to him live twice. At least he’s left us a legacy of the albums I’ve named here and more. I encourage you to discover your own favorites. Here’s a Spotify playlist of some of mine…

George Winston – playlist by Katie Sue | Spotify:

Listen to George Winston on Spotify, YouTube or iTunes, or head to downtown’s Sonic Rainbow and score this marvelous artist on vinyl or CD.