Christopher Becker Whitley (August 31, 1960 – November 20, 2005) was an American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist.
Whitley changed his sound frequently, and achieved modest mainstream success while maintaining a small but devoted following. Whitley's style, beginning with his debut album, Living with the Law was rooted primarily in the blues, but drew on an array of influences and was constantly changing. In 2001, the New York Times described his act as "restless, moving into noise-rock and minimalist jazz evoking Chet Baker and Sonic Youth as much as Robert Johnson". Whitley himself refused to be classified in one genre as an artist, and dodged radio-friendly pop songs, insisting that he could never sincerely create and perform them.
Whitley spent the early 1980s busking on the streets of New York City and played with Marc Miller (of Ambitious Lovers), Arto Lindsay (of The Lounge Lizards) and Michael Beinhorn (of Material).  Given a ticket to Ghent, Belgium in 1983, he stayed there for four years and recorded several albums and saw moderate success with bands Kuruki, 2 Belgen, Nacht Und Nebel, Alan Fawn, and A Noh Rodeo. Alan Gevaert (dEUS), A Noh Rodeo's bassist, continued to work with Whitley and played bass on his first three mainstream releases. Whitley playing with Alan Gevaert on 14th street in New York City at a benefit concert in the 1990s
In 1988, producer Daniel Lanois discovered Whitley while he was playing at Mondo Cane in New York City and helped get him a record deal with Columbia Records. Lanois' protégé, Malcolm Burn, produced Whitley's Stateside début album Living with the Law in 1991 (and returned to produce Soft Dangerous Shores in 2005). Two of his singles charted in the United States on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts: "Big Sky Country" (#36, 1991) and "Living with the Law" (#28, 1991).
Whitley played a brand of confessional acoustic and electric blues, mixed with rock. His lyrics often contained overt sexual and religious references and sometimes bordered on the surreal. Whitley mainly played the National resonator guitar made famous by many of the great Mississippi delta blues players of the 1930s, and was an accomplished slide guitarist. Whitley also appeared in the concert film documentary Hellhounds on my Trail - The Afterlife of Robert Johnson, performing Johnson's "Hellhound on My Trail" solo and "Walkin' Blues" with Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman, and Jeffrey Clemens.
He was fond of covering Johnson, Bob Dylan, and Lou Reed but also covered a diverse selection of artists live and on record: James Brown, J.J. Cale, The Clash, Nat King Cole, The Doors, Willie Dixon, The Flaming Lips, Jimi Hendrix, Howlin' Wolf, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, The Passions, Prince, The Stooges, and Sonny Boy Williamson II.
Though relatively unknown to the mainstream, he was well-known to many other musicians throughout his career. In 2000, Whitley recorded Perfect Day with Chris Wood and Billy Martin from Medeski Martin & Wood. Dave Matthews and Bruce Hornsby also appeared on 2001's Rocket House.
He also recorded with Shawn Colvin (on Fat City), Cassandra Wilson (on Blue Light 'til Dawn and New Moon Daughter), Rob Wasserman and Les Claypool (on Wasserman's Trios), Johnny Society (on Wood and Clairvoyance), Joe Henry (on Fuse), Michael Shrieve (on Fascination), Chocolate Genius (on GodMusic), Ely Guerra (on Lotofire), Goat (on All of My Friends), Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum (on Faces & Names), Clint Mansell (on the Knockaround Guys soundtrack), DJ Logic, Little Jimmy Scott, Mike Watt, Daniel Lanois, and Jeff Lang.
In early 2004, Whitley's "Breaking Your Fall" from Hotel Vast Horizon (2003) won in Independent Music Awards for Best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Song. He won again the following year in The 4th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues/R&B Song with "Her Furious Angels" from War Crime Blues (2004). Whitley was also an inaugural member of The Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.
His daughter Trixie Whitley is a Belgian singer, rhythm guitarist, part-time drummer, and keyboardist. Her backing vocals can be heard on some of her father's records. She is a multi-instrumentalist currently performing with the Daniel Lanois-led Black Dub and has her own band.
In fall 2005, Whitley canceled his tour due to health issues. Dan Whitley, his brother, commented on November 11, 2005 that he was "in a comfortable warm home with hospice care at his disposal". Later that week it was revealed that Whitley was terminally ill with lung cancer. He died on November 20, 2005 in Houston, Texas at the age of 45. His brother, Dan, and daughter, Trixie announced his death. He was also survived by his girlfriend, Susanne.
Although Whitley was not a mainstream act, his death resonated throughout the music community and garnered coverage and press throughout the world, ranging from Time, the New York Times, and National Public Radio to a tribute mention at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, Tom Petty, Myles Kennedy, Don Henley, Iggy Pop, Alanis Morissette, Sandi Thom, John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, Joey DeGraw and Keith Richards all count themselves admirers of Whitley's music.
"[When] Chris Whitley died...with him went a big part of modern American blues music. There aren't many fighters for the cause, and Chris never gave up on his mission. His somewhat prostrated place in pop culture earned him a sidebar of an obituary, but to those who knew his work, it registers as one of the most underappreciated losses in all of music." – John Mayer
"Chris Whitley, my friend since 1988. The deep soul he was gifted with is the soul that challenged his life journey. I will forever remember his beauty." – Daniel Lanois
Robert Caruso covered Whitley's song, "Living with the Law" in 1993, which was the first time he covered other musicians' songs. It is the only cover song and open tribute Whitley's songs recorded before its author's untimely death.
Portland songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps dedicated the song "Handful of Arrows" on his album Tunesmith Retrofit (2006) to Whitley.
Faroese artist Teitur wrote "Legendary Afterparty" (from The Singer) as a tribute to meeting Whitley.  Peer and critical praise
"I feel more passion for his music than I do for my own. I have a fervent, religious devotion to the magic that Chris Whitley makes." – Dave Matthews 
"[That] boy...plays like three men." – Robert Lockwood, Jr.
"The notable constant has been the quality of craftmanship, and the consistent question of how Whitley's combination of super songs, muscular-but-poetic lyrics, athletic voice and rock-god guitar work hasn't earned him a wider audience." – Detroit Free Press
"The post-Hendrix explosion of whammybar ****ers hasn't produced a single axeman who can compare to Chris Whitley. His eerie, bluesy voice and American gothic tunes frequently draw attention from the fact that he picks like a pissed off Doc Watson jacked through a Marshall stack" – RollingStone.com
* Living with the Law (1991) * Din of Ecstasy (1995) * Terra Incognita (1997) * Dirt Floor (1998) * Live at Martyrs' (1999/2000) * Perfect Day featuring Billy Martin and Chris Wood (2000) * Rocket House (2001) * Long Way Around: An Anthology: 1991-2001 (2002) * Pigs Will Fly (soundtrack) with Warner Poland and Kai-Uwe Kohlschmidt (2003) * Hotel Vast Horizon (2003) * Weed (2004) * War Crime Blues (2004) * Soft Dangerous Shores (2005) * Reiter In with The Bastard Club (2006) * Dislocation Blues with Jeff Lang (2006) * On Air (2008 - recorded live 2003) * Dust Radio - DVD - a documentary about Chris, currently in post-production, slated for release sometime 2010/2011.