Sandy Denny – The Forgotten Songstress.

“I believe Sandy Denny is the greatest ever British female singer.” – Robert Plant. Robert Plant the lead singer of Led Zeppelin said this of Sandy Denny after they had sung duet on ‘The Battle of Evermore.’ Sandy Denny was the only ever guest vocalist to appear on a Led Zeppelin album. Robert believed that Sandy took the song to a whole new level. As he stood at the doorway of the recording studio looking at Jimmy Page, his mouth was left wide open as to what he was listening too. The song which appears on the classic Led Zeppelin Four album was how I first became acquainted with the late Sandy Denny. It was the early 1990’s and I was reading a Rolling Stone magazine commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Led Zeppelin Four. The tracklisting gave a description of each song, and I had often wondered who owned the incredible female voice who sang a duet with Robert Plant on ‘The Battle of Evermore.” I have often pondered on how Sandy’s vocals would have sounded on ‘Stairway to Heaven?’ Brilliant I imagine! Sandy Denny hit a chord with me from the first time I heard her sing. It was one of those spine-tingling moments, where the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It was like when I first heard ‘Sugarman’by Rodriguez. Her voice was pure and incredibly emotional. Sandy could hit the most beautiful high notes and at other times it was raw and husky, all the while giving way to a deep sense of melancholy.No better can this be heard than on ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood.’ Sandy Denny was born into a respectable middle-class family in London on the 6th of January 1947. After her schooling, where she studied classical piano, she started training as a nurse before changing to art in 1965. Her first recordings were in 1967 for the Saga label, after she had been performing on the folk club circuit. Shortly after this, she abandoned her art studies, to devote herself full time to her music. An invitation to join The Strawbs saw her record one album with them before Sandy felt as though she wanted to expand her vocal style. Fortunately the folk/ rock band Fairport Convention was auditioning for a new lead singer after Judy Dyble had left the band. Sandy made three albums with Fairport Convention in the late sixties including the classic ‘Liege & Lief.’ By the time she had left the band, she had managed to steer the band away from their west coast sound to playing more traditional British folk music. In 1969 Sandy left Fairport Convention to form her own band Fotheringay, with her Australian boyfriend Trevor Lucas. It was here that she recorded one of her best traditional songs ‘The Banks of the Nile.’ What followed was some brilliant solo work, which cemented her reputation as one of Britain’s finest singers and which included songs such as ‘Late November’ and ‘Next Time Around.’ In 1973 Sandy married Trevor Lucas and in 1974 rejoined Fairport Convention where her husband was already a member. What followed was a grueling world tour in 1974 and 1975 and Sandy’s increasing drinking and smoking took its toll on her voice, although she still displayed incredible control in her vocals. By the end of 1975, both Sandy and Trevor had left Fairport Convention and had embarked on what was to be her last album, ‘Rendezvous’ which includes my favourite Sandy Denny song ‘I’m a Dreamer.’ On the domestic front, Sandy gave birth to a much-wanted daughter in July 1977 and named her Georgia. In April 1978 Sandy fell down a flight of stairs while staying at a friend’s house in London. She was found some hours later in a coma, in which she never recovered and she died on April 21st, 1978 at the Atkinson Morley Hospital. During her life, Sandy Denny never attained mainstream success she yearned for, although she has always had a devoted cult following including yours truly. She suffered from many insecurities but she always had total faith in her ability as a singer. Her powerful deep and emotive voice was an anomaly to the woman who liked a drink and a good time. Sandy had one of the most beautiful and emotional voices I have ever heard and she can quite rightly hold the mantle of ‘The Lady.’

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