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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Paul Pena, 55, Blues Guitarist and Songwriter, Is Dead

Incredibly sad day as the big man has passed. You may remember him from the film, "Genghis Blues," or for the amazing song, 'Gotta Move', one of my favorites to get a dancefloor moving. - LL

October 5, 2005

Paul Pena, 55, Blues Guitarist and Songwriter, Is Dead

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 4 (AP) - Paul Pena, a San Francisco blues guitarist
wrote one of the biggest hits for the Steve Miller Band, died here on
Saturday. He was 55.

The cause was complications of diabetes and pancreatitis, his Web site

Mr. Pena is perhaps best known for writing "Jet Airliner," a Top 10 hit
in 1977. He lived off the royalties from that song.

He is also familiar to audiences for the 1999 Academy Award-nominated
documentary "Genghis Blues," which tells the story of how he took up
Tuvan throat singing.

Mr. Pena, almost completely blind since birth and plagued by illnesses
most of
his life, was born in Hyannis, Mass. He proved to be a natural
singing and teaching himself several instruments. In the late 1960's,
he was in
a band that opened for big-time acts including the Grateful Dead and
Zappa. Blues artists ranging from T-Bone Walker to B. B. King to Bonnie
recognized his talents, hiring him to play guitar in their bands.

In 1971 Mr. Pena moved to San Francisco, where he played many gigs,
opening for Jerry Garcia's and Merle Saunders' bands.

Mr. Pena became interested in throat singing when he heard a Tuvan
broadcast on
his shortwave radio in 1984. Later he found a Tuvan record, playing it
countless times until he learned how to throat sing, which involves
several distinct vocal-cord sounds simultaneously. In 1993 he
demonstrated his
technique to Kongar-ol Ondar, one of the foremost throat singers in the
Mr. Ondar was impressed with Pena, nicknaming him Earthquake and
inviting him
to Tuva to participate in the annual competition.

His 1995 journey to Tuva, where he won awards in the contest and
charmed local
residents who were delighted with this foreigner who had mastered their
form, is recounted in "Genghis Blues."

He is survived by his parents, Jack and Virginia Pena of Harwich,
Mass., and
two brothers, Jim of Lynnfield, Mass., and Peter.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


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