Michael Troy, known for sad yet beautiful songs about Fall River, dies at 64 (11/29/2015)


From The Herald News, Fall River, MA

Michael Troy was a stage name Michael Manuels adopted to honor his hometown. Troy was born and raised in Fall River, where he married, raised four daughters, and worked as a fisherman, a carpenter and a mill hand before launching his career as a full-time musician when he was in his 40s.

"The first time I saw Michael was over at the Belmont Club," said Don Hammontree, a musician and writer who lived in Fall River for 15 years. "They had an open-mike night there. This was in 2000 or 2001."

"He did a song called Lizzie. It was an acoustic ragtime thing. It was stunning. It was stunning in every way."

Hammontree said he bought Troy's CDs and studied them, trying to learn the secret to Troy's writing.

"There is a song called Romancing the Moon," he said. "It talks about living in Fall River and the death of a friend. It starts with a man dying in an easy chair."

"And it is a really beautiful song."

"Michael may well be the best songwriter I ever heard," said Russ Smith, who runs the Paskamansett Concert Series in Dartmouth and formerly booked music at Sandywoods Music in Tiverton.

"He really was a poet," Smith said. "He could convey emotions and tell beautiful stories, but he knew when a song was finished. He knew what to leave out."

Smith said he remembers one line from a song about working in a soup kitchen in Fall River.

"He wrote, I see God in these friends of mine. That is still with me," Smith said.

Troy's last show was on Oct. 25 at the Narrows Center for the Arts. It was a celebration to note the release of Troy's latest CD, "I am American." Other musicians took turns on stage to play Troy's songs. Oct. 25 was also declared Michael Troy Day in Fall River.

"He was a good guy," said Patrick Norton, president of the Narrows. "We go way back. He played at the old Narrows and it was the biggest show we ever had there. Then he opened for Richie Havens when we went to our current place. That was the first show we sold out."

"He was the poet laureate of Fall River. He wrote songs about Fall River, about the hills and the mills."

"He had all these characters in his songs, and they were all real."

Troy didn't seem to mind not being a star, according to Tom Perrotti, a musician who books acts for the Common Fence Point Music in Portsmouth. Troy was a regular there.

"It is a real challenge in the music world, even if you have real talent, like Michael did. There are just so many odds working against you," Perrotti said.

"But he would always bring in a good crowd. A lot of people enjoyed what he did and he was genuinely happy with that."

Everyone who knew him talked about the bear hugs Troy would give, the encouragement he offered. Hammontree also saw him perform in a bar where a drunk got loud. A blue-collar guy from Fall River knows how to handle those people, and Troy did. A look and a few words were enough, Hammontree said.

"He was the real deal," he said. "He was a Fall River guy. He was a really nice guy, but he didn't suffer fools gladly."

"But I remember, I saw him in 2001. I'd just gotten laid off (from The Herald News). He pulled me aside and told me that everything would be OK. He made sure I knew that."

"I'm hoping, in the twisted way that art works when you die, that people will get more interested and that his music will reach a new crowd and grow in stature."

"He deserves that."

Michael's music can be heard and purchased at www.cdbaby.com/artist/michaeltroy