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Sandy Denny

Maddy Prior, Jacqui McShee, and June Tabor all give her a run for her money, but the late Sandy Denny remains the pre-eminent British folk-rock singer. In addition to recording several albums of her own, Denny was an integral force behind the best work of the most respected British folk-rock band of all, Fairport Convention, and also contributed mightily to recordings by the Strawbs and Fotheringay. It's impossible for words to fully evoke the haunting, spectral presence of her powerful and penetrating alto voice, which seemed to bring the mythology of English moors and folktales to life in contemporary, 20th century settings.

Denny was studying to be a nurse when she began to pursue music seriously in the mid-'60s, partially at the encouragement of the then-struggling Simon & Garfunkel, whom she met when they were still unknown. She was also friendly with the American folk singer Jackson Frank, and recorded a couple of his songs on her first album (now available as The Original Sandy Denny). While this solo acoustic recording was her most traditional folk effort, it showed considerable potential, which she came closer to realizing on the 1967 album she recorded as a member of the Strawbs. This found her singing with fuller folk-rock arrangements, and also included her first recorded composition, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." The song gave Denny her first international recognition when Judy Collins recorded it in 1968.

Denny was tapped to replace Judy Dyble in Fairport Convention in 1968, and is prominently featured on their late-'60s albums What We Did on Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, and Liege and Lief. These are not only recognized as Fairport's best work, but as some of the finest British folk-rock records of all time. Although Denny shared the lead vocal chores with other members of the group, it was her singing that highlighted the best tracks, such as "Tam Lin," "Fotheringay," and "Autopsy" (the last two of which she wrote).

Denny left Fairport Convention in 1970, and while both she and Fairport would produce some worthwhile work in the future, it's fair to say that neither band nor singer would reach the same peaks again. She formed the short-lived Fotheringay, which also included her future husband Trevor Lucas on guitar, but which disbanded after one decent album (a planned second LP was never completed). She recorded a few solo albums for Island in the 1970s that sometimes suffered from unsympathetic over-production and weak material, though the highlights are worth hearing. There was also an unremarkable album of oldies covers that she helped out with as a member of the Bunch, a British folk supersession of sorts that also included Richard Thompson. When mainstream rock listeners heard her voice in the 1970s, however, it was usually not on her own records, but as a guest vocalist on Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore."

Much of the best of Denny's later solo work, oddly, is found on live and BBC recordings, some of which surfaced on the box set Who Knows Where the Time Goes? (others appear on the bootleg Dark the Night). While Denny was a first-rate folk-rock singer, she usually didn't mesh well with mainstream rock or hard rock arrangements, and the live work usually framed her vocals in more appropriately sparse settings. She joined Fairport again for a while in the mid-'70s, appearing on the 1975 album Rising for the Moon, but the reunion didn't really excite either the participants or the audiences, and she left for good in 1976. Her final LP, Rendezvous, came out in 1977; the following year, she died from injuries sustained in a fall down a flight of stairs. In 1998, Island released Gold Dust, a recording of her final live performance taped at London's Royalty Theatre on November 27, 1977. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

rrkaimer7
Voice of a deep spirit
Powerful song writer.
A magic voice, a remarkable talent, a truly unique song crafter. I would recommend her to anyone who treasures a great song well performed. Her life was way too short, sadly but she left us something to make this life less sad and more magical. Bless her!
Her voice, was beautiful; she was beautiful, and her ability to play the guitar and piano was also incredible. I was living in an ashram when she passed, and was deeply saddened to learn of her passing after leaving the yoga community. Her music is timeless, and her voice will live in my heart, forever.
steven633
Beautiful and sorely missed. underrated but not under appreciated. Sleep well...
jameson1086
Sandy Denny is the artist, but the bio is about Alex Campbell.... ?
cmyers3402
As ethereal, haunting, beautiful voice I have ever heard. RIP
Love Sandy and her music. Taken from us far too young but what music we have!
cmyers3402
And she could play some Rockin music too -- LET'S JUMP THE BROOMSTICK, COME ON, her piano kicks a**
I still have Rising for the Moon, Fairport's last album (and really folk rock) on vinal -- and CD now. In 1978 I sang White Dress for a friend's wedding. Love Sandy, love Fairport.
cmyers3402
Sandy was sooooo different and so talented. Each of her albums always had a couple of memorable songs. Such a haunting voice.
was she featured on an older CD Celtic Voices, Women in Song? her voices sounds familiar
cowniew
Unlessed I missed while skimming through the bio they didn't mention Like a Old Fashioned Waltz which I believe is her finest work.
monadiane
RIP Sandy.
somehow Alex Campbell's bio shows instead of Sandy Denny's
One of my all-time favorite singers.
kinsmith
She was the very best!
manicliam
God, she was one-of-a-kin d , love her music....
Beautiful voice.
Still in love with her and her music after all these years...
102345342
ONE OF THE BEST that died too young. I followed her career from the 60's and still love her music!!! She lives in my LP collection as well as the "cleaned" songs on CD. Miss her severely !!
Heard about her on NPR. I'm a little too young... I missed her... very good
cmkmann
Check out her work with Fairport Convention & Fotheringay.
rroyoxcart6
Her Music And The Way That she brought it alive, Was most Lovely And Entertaining I for one LOVED it.
Thanks for Makeing my Place, A better place to live. with late love
ROY-------


thevanman552
This voice is so powerful, rich, and full; she does remind me a lot of Grace Slick in some ways. I loved Fairport Convention and some of her other work, but suffice to say this is a voice for the ages. It is so soulful and real.
mtarziers
HAd never heard of her before . Thank you Pandora for expsoing me to her music.
Sandy Denny reminds me of Nick Drake, and I have absolutely no way to explain it to you. I'm a big fan of both (now deceased) artists. Does anyone else feel the same thing?
I've been a fan for over 20 years, and, wow, she can grab you with a whole range of emotions. Truely an amazing singer
c.pickhardt
Thank you Rob for pointing out that some drunks have a limited world view. My wife succumbed to a brain tumor, undiagnosed untill she collapsed at 52. Cherish What You Have, time is short.
SANDY DENNY WAS A VERY GOOD SINGER,SOUND E D A "LITTLE LIKE JUDY COLLINS,SORR Y SHE PASSED AWAY WHILE SO YOUNG..SHE HAD A SWEET VOICE,SORRY TO HEAR SHE IS GONE..THANKS PANDORA
Apparently the fall was precipitated by a brain tumour which had been causing headaches and dizzy spells.
how and why did she die...it does not say!

a voice that takes me back to great times -
thanxs
jpr
there is a really good retrospectiv e double cd of her work (with fairport and fotheringay too). it's called, No More Sad Refrains. Really amazing collection. Unparalleled talent.
the absolute best.
The HALLMARK of her genre. Another way to spell superb.

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