Charles Lyonhart

And if you got a heart
Show me that you care
Let me know you mean it
Let me know you’re there
And if you got a heart, and your heart is true
Let it beat for me
Let it beat for you

Charles Lyonhart had a great heart. It beat for his love, Theresa Poole Lyonhart; it beat for his friends, for his music, ran through his songs of tough times, good days, brightness and sadness; through the painful days when his ravaged body wanted to give up but his soul wouldn’t let him. 

But when it finally said ‘enough,’ Theresa was with him as he died in the hours just past midnight on Saturday, May 22 at Vassar Brothers hospital. 

Lyonhart, 69, struggled and survived a decade and a half with a transplanted liver, battling numerous serious illnesses along the way and contributing albums of sometimes biting, ironic, often tender and always insightful songs, interspersed with too few performances. Those lucky enough to have caught one would have heard songs from the 2001 Down to the Hard Line; from Outside Looking In, released in 2009, and his 2020 recording Blood and Love. His frequent collaborators included lifelong friends Larry Campbell, the multi-instrumentalist, and Lincoln Schleifer, who played bass and other instruments, while collaborating on production duties with Campbell, as well as engineering and producing Blood and Love. 

“Aside from being a unique and compelling songwriter and a heart on the sleeve performer, Charles was the definition of a good friend,” said Campbell. “He was always there for you with compassion and generosity.”

Others who contributed to Charles’ life and music included close friend George Quinn, producer/engineer Julie Last; Joel Diamond; Chris Zaloom; Teresa Williams; Dennis Cotton…Marty Kupersmith…Butch Dener…

George Quinn said, “Charles…poet, songwriter, father, and generous friend. He fought hard and persevered in his quest to make others donate their organs so others may live as he did. He relished Edgar Allan Poe. Perhaps his favorite quote: ‘Never to suffer would never to have been blessed…’”

“Charles Lyonhart was more than a good friend, he was a member of our family,” said Schleifer. “He was someone you could count on and was always there for us. We made a lot of good music together over the last 30 years and his songwriting and his friendship will be terribly missed. Goodbye Charles….”

Charles and I used to sneak away on Monday nights and have dinner at the Little Bear. Over Cold Green Noodles in Sesame Sauce and other spicy delights, we’d discuss the state of the world, the Woodstock music scene, local issues, gossip, our health… We’d exchange stories of family, of loss, of joy, and found a true bond despite his instinctive reclusiveness.

I had first met Charles on a night at the Tinker Street Café in what must have been the mid 1990s, when he shared the bill with his beloved buddy John Herald, with whom I was playing bass that night. Charles had a band without a bass, so I fumbled my way through his impressive set of songs. He hadn’t yet moved to the area, but with John on the bill a crowd showed up. 

Charles and I became close after John Herald committed suicide in 2005. I was working on John’s album and Charles had contributed production work, and we worked together on a memorial. They were very fine friends and John’s passing affected Charles greatly. 

After he moved to the area, I played with Charles a few times, and he would come and sit in at the weekly Bluegrass Clubhouse sessions that took place at the late, lamented Harmony Café. 

Several years later he found Theresa Poole and the courtship was very quick, real love was evident and the songs grew deeper with emotion. Through good times and difficult ones, she stayed by his side, even as illness sapped his strength. 

Charles Lyonhart was born and raised in the Bronx in 1951, to Harry and Claire Lishnoff.

He is survived by his wife, Theresa Poole Lyonhart. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister Julie Lishnoff. Charles is survived by his son Henry Lishnoff; his daughter Dawn Lishnoff and her son Jacob; and Charles’ son, Roger Lishnoff and his wife Valerie and their two daughters, Liviana and Naomi. He is also survived by his brother Perry Lishnoff.

Arrangements are by E.B. Gormley Funeral Home, of Phoenicia.

There will be a gravesite burial at noon, Friday, May 28 at the Woodstock Artists Cemetery. A memorial will be announced at a later date.

— Brian Hollander

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