“To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity.”–Richard Thompson
Richard John Thompson was born on this day in Notting Hill, London, England in 1949. He is 64 years old.
Thompson was born into a musical family. His father was an amateur guitarist and other family members played music professionally. His first band, which he started in school, was called Emil and the Detectives. Thompson embraced rock and roll, jazz and traditional Scottish music influences as he kerned his skills.
At 18 he joined Fairport Convention, a folk, electric folk, folk rock band.
In his four years with the group, they released a half a dozen albums that married electric rock with acoustic folk, changing the musical landscape in Britain… [NPR.org]
His strong guitar playing helped the band gain traction both in the UK and in the States. Thompson also wrote most of Convention’s songs like “Meet on the Ledge” .
Thompson left Fairport Convention in 1971 and struck out on his own. His first solo album, Henry the Human Fly failed to impress critics and the record buying public, but it did yield an important professional and personal connection — Thompson worked with Linda Peters on the project. Peters and Thompson fell in love and married in October of 1972.
Richard and Linda Thompson put out a half-dozen albums including I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver.
The duo hit their professional stride with the well received album Shoot Out the Lights. Unfortunately their personal life together had begun to unravel. After touring to support the album the couple divorced in 1982.
Here’s Wall of Death from Shoot Out the Lights…
From 1983 on Thompson was a solo act — kind of — he found a myriad of other performers who mixed well with his vocal, guitar and folk/rock style.
No artist to emerge in the second half of the ’60s has gone on to have a more productive and vital career than Richard Thompson. The England-born, L.A.-based artist has amassed an astounding body of work comprising more than 40 albums, containing artfully shaped material that seamlessly and expressively integrates traditional and contemporary modes. And Thompson is among the most distinctive of guitar virtuosos, capable of breathtaking drama and sublime delicacy, prompting Rolling Stone to hail him as “a perennial dark-horse contender for the title of greatest living rock guitarist.” [Amazon.com — Richard Thompson Biography]
Here’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning a beautiful exhibition of his storytelling and musical skills.
The Thompson’s son Teddy began singing professionally with his father in the 1990’s. The two performed a duet, Persausion, for Action Packed, Richard Thompson’s 1999 best-of record.
That same year Thompson was asked for a list of the most popular music of the previous millennium for Playboy Magazine. Thompson knew they were only looking for a pop look at the past 20 years or so, but he took the task to heart and researched songs stretching back 1068. He started with Sumer is Icumen In and ended with his own take on Oops! I Did It Again. Thompson decided to record the songs (he did 23 in all).
To get a comprehensive taste of Thompson music you can listen to this NPR concert: