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Linda Thompson


Born in London, Linda Thompson is a British singer/songwriter who became one of the most recognised names in the British folk rock movement of the 1970s and 1980s, initially in collaboration with her former husband and fellow British folk rock artist Richard Thompson, and later, as a solo artist.


In 1967, she changed her name to Linda Peters and sang in London folk clubs alongside performers such as Martin Carthy, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Nick Drake. In 1972, as one half of “Paul and Linda”, with Paul McNeill, she recorded the Bob Dylan song ‘You Ain't Going Nowhere’, which was released by MGM as a single. Also in that year she was invited to join The Bunch, a loose affiliation of folk rock luminaries including former Fairport Convention members Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Ashley Hutchings. As The Bunch, they recorded an album of 1950s rock and roll classics called Rock On.


During this period she married Richard Thompson, and in 1974 their first album together was released, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. Recognising the quality of Linda’s singing, Richard wrote many of the album’s songs for her, such as ‘Withered and Died’, ‘Dimming of the Day’, Walking on a Wire’, ‘For Shame of Doing Wrong’ and ‘A Heart Needs a Home’.


Their next two albums, Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver, were both released in 1975. Soon after this they both decided to take a break from music business and moved to a Sufi commune in East Anglia. In 1982, their third album, Shoot Out the Lights was released and was a critical and commercial success. In 1989, it was ranked number 9 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, it was was ranked number 333 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


In 1985, Linda’s first solo album, One Clear Moment, was released. It included seven of her compositions. One of them, ‘Telling Me Lies’ (co-written with Betsy Cook) was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Country Song category.


In 1989, her singing voice became affected by the condition known as hysterical dysphonia, which was at that time unresponsive to medical or psychological treatment. Because of this, singing was impossible and her performing career had to be put on hold.  During this hiatus, she raised her children, travelled the world with her husband, became a partner in an antique jewellery business in Bond Street, did studio and theatre work, and enjoyed some success as a songwriter.


In 2002, with her dysphonia under control (due to botox injections to her vocal chords) she made a remarkable return to form with the release of a new album, Fashionably Late, which was critically acclaimed. In 2007, her next album Versatile Heart was released to similarly glowing reviews, and in 2008 was nominated for a South Bank Show Award.




Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


A: Like Byron, Robert Lowell or Andrew Motion … no. I’d have to learn a lot more about metre for a start. 

Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?


A: I don't think so, though I seem to be constitutionally unable to come up with free verse.

Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?


A: As aforesaid, I’m a bit of a conformist; but, as a folk musician, hooks and refrains don't really impinge on my work. If they did, I’d be in grave danger of making money.

Q:  When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?


A:  No, not really. At my school we sang the occasional Shakespeare sonnet, and, as it was Scotland Rabbie Burns. Actually, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is a great poem and a great song, that's rare. Anyhow, I think poetry and lyric writing employ different muscles. I wish i could write poetry. I’d love to be dressed in floppy bows and all consumptive!

Q:  Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?


A: Absolutely. All aspiring songwriters should read poetry, so much to steal. You can't write if you don't read.

Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?


A: Duh. Melodies get inside people's heads and hearts like nobody's business…