Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Across The Evening Sky, All The Birds Are Leaving
Sandy Denny (1947-1978) wrote and sang so beautifully and so often about the lovely, sad season of autumn that a crisp October morning seemed the right kind of time to visit her grave at Putney Vale Cemetery, London.
It is a very plain grave - at the foot of a tree, right by the path, facing west - and unadorned by any of the left-by-fans paraphernalia that weighs down the resting places of other 'rock legends'.
Sandy's brother David, who also died in his thirties, is buried just behind. There are many more elaborate monuments nearby.
Unlike Nick Drake, that other great articulator of English melancholy in song, with whom she shared a record label and management team, Sandy was famous during her lifetime.
Not Royal Variety Performance famous, but then she'd have hated that.
Famous enough to sell-out decent sized venues in Britain either solo, or with Fairport Convention and Fotheringay (and combinations of both); famous enough to have been twice named Female Vocalist Of The Year by Melody Maker (RIP); famous in the folk-clubs (and famously fond of a good time and a few or more brandies there) long before that.
Since her death, her star has risen still further and her status as the finest British female singer/songwriter of her generation (and a master interpreter of songs by Richard Thompson, Dylan, Joni Mitchell and many others) is assured.
More and more of us are discovering that clear, sad, pitch-perfect, very English voice for the first time - and discovering in it something that is very special indeed.
Sandy would have turned 60 in January 2007.
Hard to imagine, because she's now, in Dylan's words, forever young.
Here's Ghost Of Electricity's completely subjective list of 17 of her greatest recordings (a CD full, if you will) in rough chronological order...
With Fairport Convention
Fotheringay (from 'What We Did On Our Holidays')
I Don't Know Where I Stand (from 'Heyday - The BBC Sessions')
Who Knows Where The Time Goes (from 'Unhalfbricking')
Crazy Man Michael (from 'Liege & Lief')
Farewell, Farewell (ditto)
Nothing More (from 'Fotheringay')
Blackwaterside (from 'The North Star Grassman And The Ravens')
Next Time Around (ditto)
It'll Take A Long Time (from 'Sandy')
Listen, Listen (ditto)
The Music Weaver (ditto)
Solo (from 'Like An Old Fashioned Waltz')
No End (ditto)
No More Sad Refrains (from 'Rendezvous')
One More Chance (from 'Rising For The Moon')
Buy Sandy albums at Amazon.
For more about Sandy, TGOE recommends Clinton Heylin's 'No More Sad Refrains - The Life And Times Of Sandy Denny' (Helter Skelter Publishing) - out-of-print, but you can still get it if you try hard enough (thanks to a very nice man at Helter Skelter for mine) ....