Crash claimed Charlie Braun, gifted city musician known for spiritual sessions 


Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2021 7:01:11 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Charlie Braun, a city singer-songwriter and music teacher known as a gifted guitarist, was killed Wednesday when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle near Northampton High School.

The Northwestern district attorney’s office said Braun, 69, was hit while riding near the intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Elm Street at around 4:15 p.m. He was taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver, a 23-year-old Haydenville woman, stayed at the scene and cooperated with police. No charges or citations have been issued. The crash remains under investigation by local and state police.

Braun was the owner of the Other Side of the Tracks Studio in Northampton, where he recorded and produced for musicians including Nate Livingston, Ed Ritz and Dennis Caraher. He also recorded audiobooks for authors such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and Gayle Pemberton.

He released several albums of original music, the most recent of which was “Keep the Vibration Up: Songs & Chants in the Key of Light” in 2016. Braun played in a variety of styles including American folk, country blues, Latin, rock, gospel and meditative yoga music.

Braun was known for leading spiritual music and chanting sessions called Kirtans at the Eastworks building in Easthampton and other locations around New England. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, artist Beth McElhiney, a friend of Braun’s, said the Kirtans were held monthly.

“He gifted us with beautiful sacred music and his Kirtans were a gift to myself and my partner,” McElhiney said. “Charlie and I both shared a connection to Martha’s Vineyard and then western Mass. It was always fun to spontaneously bump into each other out on the bike path or at River Valley (Co-op) and just chat away.”

McElhiney described the Kirtans as “magical” and healing for all involved.

“When playing music with Charlie Braun, there was always a sense of deep connection at an almost metaphysical level, in that place where the music is divinely inspired,” Braun’s bandmate Charlie Shew said. “As a friend, I could always count on Charlie to keep things on an upward energy. He always had a smile and a laugh ready for you when you needed a friend to be there for you.”

Shew’s wife, Bonnie Shew, also a close friend of Braun’s, said he was a “beautiful” singer and a devoted teacher.

“I would best describe Charlie as passionate,” Bonnie Shew said. “Passionate about social justice and political causes, about food, fitness, his children and grandchildren, and life itself. Charlie was almost always relentlessly optimistic and a truly beautiful soul.”

According to his website, Braun won the 2009 Gold Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation for his album of children’s music, “I Miss the Mud.”

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available Friday.

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