A Sandy Denny Biography

From: Levent Varlik, June 9, 1997

This is a short biography which was enclosed in the 4-LP-Box Set of Sandy:

Sandy Denny was born in London and grew up in suburban Wimbledon. She began playing piano and guitar at an early age. She was a lazy student and would always get her teacher to first play any piece assigned for practice. The suspicious teacher began including deliberate mistakes in her preliminary performances and when they appeared note for note in Sandy’s renditions the following week, the truth came out -Sandy was not learning to read music, she was playing everything by ear from memory.

She left nursing course at college to start pursuing a career as a folk singer. Performing both American singer-songwriter and British traditional styles, her powerful voice soon gained her a reputation in the small pubs and clubs of the folk "circuit" in England in the mid-’60s. She was invited to sing in a BBC radio broadcast and this led to a record deal with Saga Records. Dave Cousins was preparing the first Strawbs lp and asked Sandy to join them. She recorded with them in 1967 as "Sandy and the Strawbs". One of the songs from that record, "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" was heard in the US by Judy Collins and recorded on her lp of the same name. Only the second song Sandy ever wrote, it has now become a classic.

In 1968, Sandy was invited to replace Judy Dyble in the Fairport Convention. Her lively and boisterous personality had an immediate effect on the rather quiet, self-effacing Fairports. Her songs and singing added a new dimension to their sound and she spurred particularly Richard Thompson into a more adventurous and unique style of playing and songwriting.

Following the success of the group’s next two lps, "What We Did On Our Holidays" and "Unhalfbricking", they were preparing their first American tour when, returning from a concert from Birmingham, their van overturned on the highway and the drummer, Martin Lamble and Jeannie The Taylor, Richard’s girlfriend were killed.

Later that year they re-formed adding Dave Mattacks on drums and Dave Swarbrick on violin. Swarbrick had first played with the Fairport when they recorded a traditional song Sandy had taught them, "A Sailor’s Life". That recording was to prove a watershed in what is now known as "British folk- rock", combining the San Fransisco-influenced quasi-psychedelic instrumentals with the revivalist/traditional folk approach of Sandy and Swarbrick and the strict-tempo jazz flavoured dance-band drumming of Mattacks.

The band turned away from American influences for their new album and recordd the historic "Liege & Lief" album which began where "A Sailor’s Life" left off and remains to this day the best selling and most influential British folk-rock recording.

In 1970, bassist Ashley Hutchings left Fairport to form Steeleye Span and Sandy left to form Fotheringay with her husband-to-be Trevor Lucas. After one outstanding album, the group broke up and Sandy began a series of solo recordings and tours which continued with one interval (a re-formed Fairport Convention with Trevor and Jerry Donahue as wall as Mattacks, Swarbrick and Dave Pegg in 1974/75) until her death in 1978. During this period she achieved something resembling the acclaim she deserved.

She won many readers’ and critics’ polls as "Female Vocalist of the Year" from Melody Maker and other magazines.Led Zeppelin asked her to sing on "The Battle of Evermore" and she joined many other top stars on a recording of "Tommy". She toured the States once with a backing band led by Richard Thompson and again with Fairport in 1974. In 1977 she gave birth to a daughter, Georgia, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia with Trevor. In 1978 Sandy fell down a flight of stairs and died a week later without having regained consciousness.

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