The Argotist Online
Julie Felix is an American singer/songwriter who
arrived in England in 1964 after leaving California and hitching through Europe
with her guitar. She was soon signed with Decca—the first solo folk artist to
be signed to a major British record company. Decca quickly released her first
album Julie Felix and single, ‘Someday Soon’. The following
year saw the release of Julie Felix—The Second Album, which featured
Bob Dylan’s ‘When The Ship Comes In’, and a (now very collectable)
EP, Julie Felix Sings Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie, featuring Dylan’s
‘Masters Of War’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’, as
well as two Woody Guthrie songs.
In 1966, she headlined Croydon’s Fairfield
Hall, and later became the first British-based folk singer to perform at the
Royal Albert Hall. The now sought-after album Julie Felix Live in Concert was
a recording of part of this concert. In the same year, she became the resident
singer on the BBC TV show The Frost Report, which led to her own TV
series in 1968—the first in colour to be produced by the BBC. Guests included
Spike Milligan, Richard Harris, Leonard Cohen, Dusty Springfield, Donovan and
Jimmy Page. In 1969, Julie was one of the main artists to appear at the
Isle of Wight Festival where Bob Dylan made his comeback U.K. appearance after
his 1966 tour.
In 1970, Julie signed with Mickie Most’s RAK
label, and became the first artist to have a hit on the RAK label with Paul
Simon’s ‘If I Could (El Condor Pasa)’. Her 1972 RAK album Clotho’s
Web included musicians John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Danny Thompson of
Pentangle, and the late superstar drummer Cozy Powell. A number of hits on the
RAK label followed.
In 2002 Julie brought her admiration of Bob
Dylan’s writing to the fore by releasing her double album Starry
Eyed and Laughing—Songs by Bob Dylan. Supporting musicians included John
Paul Jones and Danny Thompson, and the album featured contributions by such
luminaries as John Renbourn, Ed Frost, Gareth Turner, Kiki Dee, Carmelo Luggeri,
and, back with her again at Hammersmith, P.J. Wright. The album was engineered
by Dave Swarbrick.
A 2004 compilation on Track Records, entitled The
Rainbow Collection, featured seventeen songs (four by Dylan) and included a
an interpretation of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, which Julie had heard Dylan sing
when they both appeared at The Isle Of Wight Festival in 1969.
Her 2008 tour celebrates her forty-five years in the music business, and will be accompanied by a new CD of the same title: Highway of Diamonds. Details can be found at her website.
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
I think of poetry as capturing a moment or a mood and exploring ideas and
emotions using the power of words. I hope that my songs inspire feelings and
marry with the music to raise the spirits and give people a new way of thinking,
or help people feel affirmed no matter what the difficulties they are
I don't think that matters at all, so long as the rhythm proves harmonious. I
think it's better to use this wonderful rich language we have creatively than
ever to contrive rhymes for the sake of it. I use a lot of Spanish lyrics and
there is a richness there which communicates even when people don't understand
every word. Something happens when there is a good song—and occasionally a
really great song, I hope—where it speaks to your heart and spirit and
language doesn't matter, sometimes it's just the sound of the word.
I don't accept limitations—I’ve always been a rebel. I think that recognised
structures are great to use, but not if they become formulaic. Music can create
it's own dynamic and carry all forms of writing, often giving words wings.
I loved e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, W B Yeats, Blake, Louis MacNeice; there are
so many great poets! I majored in English and drama, and I use lyric poetry and
sing it unaccompanied. Traditional ballads work well too. My Mexican father
taught me guitar, and my mother instilled a love of word in me from an early
age. The beat poets fed my restless soul, and of course the songs of Woody
Guthrie inspired my whole generation, Jack Kerouac had us all wanting to be on
the road. I met a young poet, Leonard Cohen, when I started on my road and
went to Greece—two years later he was singing with me on my TV show, and his
words have also stirred up so much for generations of people. Bob Dylan inspires
me to this day and one of my greatest memories is performing at the Isle of
Wight festival and meeting him there.
I think the richness and variety of words made me feel anything was possible and
if you follow a dream and flesh it out with words, then magical things start to
happen. I have used a lot of ancient chanting in my songs. Sometimes I feel
your soul is struggling to make sense of things, and words can help you attune
to the zeitgeist of your age—poetry particularly, since it is so varied:
ballads, odes, protest poetry, love poetry, war poetry. A true poet captures
something in the air and gives it a voice
Songs speak to your ear and your heart, and we are very complex emotional
beings. A song can capture a moment: we fall in love, we break up, we hit the
road, we become parents, grandparents, we lose somebody, we're happy, sad,
angry—the whole range of feeling and experience can be reflected in song. I
think music sings in the rhythm of your soul and makes you realise that you are
someone who matters, that your particular footprint on this earth leaves an
impression. I feel that my new CD Highway of Diamonds, reflects where I
am now, which only comes from where I have been all these years. The
road is my life and my life is the song.
© Julie Felix