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John O'Brien, June 2016, photo by Andrew Florides
John O’Brien in June 2016, at Café Richoux in Mayfair. Photo by Andrew Florides (

In all the years I knew John, he always seemed the same age, and always young, so I never thought I would be writing this post. He was also one of the most present people I have ever met. I’m lost for words to hear that he died yesterday, so here is a post I wrote about John   a few years ago; another about the time the actress and singer Gertrude Thoma and I surprised him in Barnes at the crack of dawn on his birthday , inviting him to a house where we’d just spent the night at a party (they had a piano), with a rendition of the Marlene Dietrich number Johnny, Wenn du Geburtstag hast. And the last word, the thing that made John’s classes different from any other teacher I’ve known, his gentle philosophy of “This thing is bigger than all of us.” 

See also: Lightly up, up, up” a tribute to John that I wrote after this post. 

2 thought on “RIP John O’Brien”
  1. Dear Jonathon – My name is Anne – I am John’s niece. This is a beautiful and tender post that you have written about my dear Uncle John. My mother Margaret – John’s sister will be touched by such a warm sentiment. John & Margaret were very close and she misses him deeply. I thank you on behalf of Mum & myself for your very special words. I shall print this out and pass on to Mum. Many thanks and warm regards – Anne

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist