Name-checked in a Kate Bush song, twice voted Top British Female Singer by readers of Melody Maker, photographed by David Bailey, has a day-lily variety named after her… The only guest vocalist ever to appear on a Led Zeppelin album, she was described by Zeppelin’s Robert Plant as ‘my favourite singer out of all the British girls that ever were’.
For all the accolades, Sandy Denny (1947-1978) remains curiously elusive. Yet, with growing media interest and the reissue of her entire back catalogue on CD, the signs are that Denny’s talent is burning brighter than ever.
She emerged in the mid-Sixties while still a teenager, performing on the folk revival scene where she displayed her mastery of traditional singing before moving onto her own compositions and contemporary material. She was a leader of the folk-rock movement, a sound she was instrumental in creating. Whether in her solo recordings or as a member of bands such as the Strawbs, Fotheringay or – most famously – Fairport Convention, her voice speaks to us still in all its resonant purity.
In this book Philip Ward, who has made a close study of the artist, presents a series of personal ‘reflections’ on her life and work. He fills in details overlooked by her biographers, surveys recent reissues of her recordings and offers the first in-depth analysis of her songwriting. He looks back to the public events marking the thirtieth anniversary of her death and assesses her alongside some of her contemporaries. In the author’s words, the book is ‘a series of experiments’ in how to write about the subject. It concludes with a detailed essay arguing the case that, long before Amy Winehouse or Kate Bush, Denny was the first British female ‘singer-songwriter’ of international stature.
The book is illustrated throughout, including previously unseen photos.
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