Frank Christian, a gifted New York City-based guitarist and singer-songwriter, best known for his song “Three Flights Up” that appeared on Nanci Griffith’s Grammy Award-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms album, died December 24. He was 60 and had been battling pneumonia.
A fixture on the Greenwich Village music scene for many years, Christian was an active part of the Fast Folk community and can be heard on a number of Fast Folk recordings. In addition to releasing four solo albums, Christian appeared on dozens of albums by other artists – including John Gorka, Jack Hardy, Christine Lavin, The Smithtereens, Dave Van Ronk, and Suzanne Vega – often backing them on guitar.
Griffith called Christian “one of the most incredible acoustic guitar players I’ve ever met,” noting in Nanci Griffith’s Other Voices: A Personal History of Folk Music that “He not only writes great songs; he also is a preserver of Delta blues and country blues.”
Christian studied jazz guitar as a teenager before moving to Greenwich Village to study literature and music at New York University. There, he immersed himself in the then burgeoning folk music scene — hanging out and playing at such long gone venues as The Bottom Line, Folk City, Kettle of Fish, Speakeasy and The Ear Inn. Christian released his debut solo album, Somebody’s Got to Do It in 1982, following that with Where Were You Last Night (1992), From My Hands (1995), featuring his own version of “Three Flights Down,” and Mr. So And So (1996). He also was part of The Song Project, a 1985 collaborative recording that also featured Lucy Kaplansky, Tom Intondi and Martha Hogan.
Here’s a link to a video of Nanci Griffith introducing Frank Christian and his song, “Three Flights Up,” to her audience: