Bill Hinkley, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame’s first inductee, passed away in hospice at the Minneapolis V. A. Hospital on May 25, sung out by his friends. On July 7 a memorial service on Nicollet Island in Minneapolis drew together Hinkley’s most immediate circle, somewhere in the seven hundreds, with a generous helping of friends, family and Air Force buddies, to reassure ourselves that life would indeed go on. Bill was a rock, and he was a mensch.
Bill didn’t recognize boundaries. He had a hellacious ear, a near photographic memory for tunes and a lifelong penchant for cultural equity that opened him to the literatures of bluegrass, blues, old-time, hot jazz, cool jazz, klezmer, swing, a hundred flavors of Slavic, Caribbean, African, and Asian music, and the pop reflections of each. It rang true in his playing, and in his parodies. He was a tunesmith when he wanted to be.
The litany of his accomplishments is for another time, but suffice it to say, Bill was an exemplary teacher, an unstumpable sideman, and the go-to mandolin, guitar, banjo, and fiddle player in Minneapolis, for all levels, all styles, all ages, no holds barred, for forty years. He died with gigs on his calendar, and not an enemy in the world.