In a certain mood, Ms. Denny is 'it'.
John Harris pays tribute to musician Sandy Denny
Live fast, die young ... John Harris pays tribute to the one-woman maelstrom that was Sandy Denny.
...The life, death and reputation of Sandy Denny are a perfect case in point. Equipped with an incredible voice and an immense songwriting talent, she was none the less plagued by the chronic insecurities that led her into excess. Her drinking partners included the late Keith Moon and John Bonham; the folk-tinged milieu from which she came also included Nick Drake. She died aged 31, in 1978 - but whereas lesser talents have been posthumously feted, she remains a decidedly cult interest.
For some, that's a sign of her singular talent. “The thing that always amazed me about Sandy,” says her friend and contemporary Linda Thompson, “was that she thought she actually could appeal to the masses. Of course she couldn't - and who would want to? If you're writing songs that people can shoot themselves to, you know you're not going to be in the charts. Sandy's music was uncomfortable. It demanded too much.”
“No More Sad Refrains: The Anthology” (Sandy Denny)
In the spring of 1968, Denny auditioned for the job of vocalist with Fairport Convention, then fond of cover versions by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and attempting to somehow align themselves with the music drifting into the UK from the American west coast. “It was in a room attached to a pub in west London,” recalls Ashley Hutchings, the band's then bass player. “We thought we were auditioning her, and she took over. She told us what she would like us to play for her. But she had the strong presence that we needed on stage. She had a wonderful voice. And we immediately liked her.” Denny stayed with the group for three albums. She was instrumental in nudging them towards the melding of old and new elements that would mark their effective invention of British folk rock. Equally importantly, her time with the band saw her take her first decisive steps as a songwriter. What We Did On Our Holidays from 1969 contained Fotheringay, a evocation of Mary, Queen of Scots that now sounds rather gauche, but served notice of both her talent and ambition; the same year's Unhalfbricking featured Who Knows Where the Time Goes, so brimming with poise and insight that it hardly sounded like something authored by a 22-year-old.....
Commercial success consistently eluded her, though a fleeting place in the mass market was assured by her appearance on Led Zeppelin IV, on which she was invited by Led Zeppelin to duet with Robert Plant on The Battle of Evermore. “She used to hang out with Led Zeppelin,” recalls Linda Thompson. “Robert and Jimmy [Page], and John Bonham and Keith Moon - they all knew how fantastic she was. Robert Plant was the loudest singer on the planet at the time, and Sandy could blow him off the stage. You'd have to hold on to the furniture when Sandy was singing. So these guys knew what a star she was. And like a lot of girls who are unhappy about the way they look, she became one of the boys. You had to go some to drink with John Bonham. You couldn't keep up with those guys. But Sandy could.”