Book Review– Sandy Denny by Philip Ward

Sandy Denny is one of my all time favourite female singers.  I said is rather than was even though she died in 1978 as I own many of her recordings and listen to them often so that her voice is an ever present background in my life.  I spotted this book amongst the catalogue of the publishing company, Matador, decided to buy and read it with a view to discover more about the personality that lay behind her music.  I was not disappointed.

In the early 1970s as a member of the band Fairport Convention Denny established folk rock as a new genre in popular music.  Ward’s book recounts her biography and sets it in its time.  Her early life on the 1960s folk club circuit to solo career in the late 70s, through a troubled personal life to an almost slapstick but tragic death from a fall down the stairs at her parents’ home, is well narrated along with attempts to explain the reasons behind the events which marked her life.

Denny has a golden voice and Ward describes it well.  He tells how she attempted to take her music in a new direction in an effort to establish herself as one of Briton’s leading singer song writers.  She showed early promise with the song “Who knows where the time goes”. The songs that followed are less memorable.  Ward’s attempts to find meaning behind the lyrics are understandable but are largely unnecessary as it is the sound of her words with the music which counts and not the meaning.  To be fair Ward points this out even though he devotes a whole chapter to understanding her songs.

There are other books that may better recount Denny’s biography which I have not read and Ward lists them amongst his references along with crediting the recollections of those who knew her.  This book must make a valuable addition but also stands up well on its own.

Sandy Denny (reflections on her music – subtitle) by Philip Ward is published by Matador.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

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