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    Terry Callier, American whose music was rediscovered in Britain

    Terry Callier performed at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
    SANDRO CAMPARDO/European Pressphoto Agency
    Terry Callier performed at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

    NEW YORK — Terry Callier — a Chicago singer and songwriter who in the 1970s developed an incantatory style that mingled soul, folk, and jazz sounds around his meditative baritone, then decades later was rescued from obscurity when his work found new fans in Britain — died Oct. 27 in Chicago at 67 of cancer.

    Mr. Callier’s return in the 1990s was one of the great recalled-to-life stories in modern pop music. At his peak, in songs from the ’70s like ‘‘Dancing Girl’’ and ‘‘Occasional Rain,’’ Mr. Callier sang spiritual rhapsodies that began with gentle guitar and built to orchestrated, uplifting climaxes. But commercial success eluded him, and by the time British fans began to seek him out, he had retired from music and was working as a computer programmer.

    Before long, he was being invited to perform in London, and on his vacation time he flew there to play for clubs full of reverent fans. Beginning with ‘‘TimePeace’’ (Verve) in 1998, he released a stream of new albums — he finally left the day job in 1999 — and collaborated with Paul Weller, Beth ­Orton,Massive Attack, and other artists.


    ‘‘It was like a dream,’’ Mr. Callier said of his comeback performances in 1998. ‘‘A couple of times I had to stop the show because it was just too over- the-top emotionally for me to continue. People knew all the words to my songs.’’

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    Terrence Orlando Callier was born in Chicago. Among his friends when he was growing up were Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler of the Impressions. While still in high school, he recorded for Chess Records, the Chicago blues and R&B label, but his mother persuaded him to stay in school before starting a music career.

    He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and became influenced by both the folk movement and John Coltrane. His debut album, ‘‘The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier,’’ was recorded in 1964 by the folklorist Samuel Charters. He sang traditional songs like ‘‘Cotton Eyed Joe’’ and ‘‘900 Miles’’ with a calm, low voice that evoked Josh White and Fred Neil, but theinstrumentation — acoustic guitar and two basses, played sparingly — gave the recordings an atmosphere that was both intimate and otherworldly.

    In 1970, he joined Butler’s Chicago Songwriters Workshop, where he worked with Charles Stepney, a producer and arranger who also worked with Earth, Wind and Fire. Mr. Callier was a co-writer of the Dells’ 1971 hit ‘‘The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)’’ and in 1972 released ‘‘Occasional Rain,’’ on the Cadet label, a Chess imprint. He released four more albums through 1978 on ­Cadet and Elektra, but by the end of the decade his career had slowed down.

    Soon after recording a 1982 single, ‘‘I Don’t Want to See Myself (Without You),’’ which he paid for himself, he quit music and went to work at the National Opinion Research Center, an affiliate of the University of Chicago. Meanwhile his music was attracting a cult following among ­British soul-music collectors and DJ’s, and around 1990 he got a call from Eddie Piller of the Acid Jazz label, who wanted to reissue ‘‘I Don’t Want to See Myself.’’


    Mr. Callier leaves a daughter, a son, ­his companion, Shirley Austin, a brother, and a grandson.