Michael Mason died peacefully in his sleep on Feb. 15 with a book in his lap. He was 83.

He had a rare, curious jewel of a mind and a loyal, loving and generous heart. He was a natural teacher and a lifelong student of anthropology and history.

Michael was born in 1939 in New York city and grew up in Pound Ridge, N.Y. His mother Clarise was a piano teacher, political activist, dancer and singer. His father Jerry was a writer, editor and publisher of photography books including The Family of Man.

He began playing guitar and writing songs when he was eight. At 22 he had two short stories published in the Evergreen Review. He had finished an album on Columbia Records, produced by Mitch Miller. He wasn’t happy with the record and declined to have it released. His songs were recorded and released by Burl Ives, Frankie Laine, and Bud & Travis.

He wrote and published four children’s books; Casey’s Cove, illustrated by John Hanna; Willie, and Clyde of Africa, both collaborations with photographer Ken Heyman; and The Book That Jason Wrote, illustrated by Don Bolognese. He edited The Country Music Book in 1985.

He was a good friend of conceptual artist and critic Brian O’Doherty and was involved with his work Duchamp’s Heartbeat, preserved. In 1966, Michael was greatly involved with Yoko Ono’s major work of the time, The Stone, at the Judson Gallery in New York city. He contributed repetitive four-channel sound forms, which added greatly to The Stone.

He met Jemima James. They wrote songs together, performed and worked as staff songwriters for Famous Music, the music publishing arm of Paramount.

He always had an interest in theater. Inspired by Jemima’s song Billy Baloo, he began to write a musical around the song’s character. It was set in a Colorado Rocky Mountain silver boomtown in the 1800s. He worked on Billy Baloo for more than 50 years and wrote a new song for it shortly before he died.

Michael and Jemima had two sons, singer-songwriter Willy Mason in 1984, and film and animation director Sam Mason in 1987. When the boys were young the family lived in Tarrytown, N.Y. where Mike was hired by the New York city board of education to do ergonomic research. He became a leading U.S. expert on computer monitor health hazards. He provided test data and exposure recommendations included in the development of the Swedish MPR2 monitor standard, which became the European Community standard.

The family moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1992.

Michael is survived by his immediate family; his sister Judy Mason; in-laws Gina James, David Borden, John Borden, Spook James, Sara James-Rilleau, Nancy Borden, Leslie Borden and Joanna Borden; nieces and nephews Molly Kozma, Justine Underhill, Vic Munoz, Natalia Munoz, Teresa Munoz, Andres Borden Munoz, Ana Gabriella Borden Munoz, Annie Schwab, Peter Schwab, Zak Borden, Abigail Borden, Reuben James, Blue James, Michael James, Jesse James, Lily James and Jesse Rilleau; and lifelong and recent friends.