6th January 1947 - 21st April 1978

Sandy was born Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny in Wimbledon on 6th January 1947.

Music was an important part of her younger years and learned to play the guitar at an early age, as well as playing piano and singing in the school choir. While Sandy was studying at College to be a nurse she established an early reputation in the popular London folk clubs such as Les Cousins, Bunjies and the Scots Hoose. Her repertoire at the time drew mainly on the folk tradition and the work of newly emerging singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, but Sandy was also tentatively starting to write her own material. In less than a year she was getting regular work and decided to leave college to pursue a career in music.

 

For two years she worked solo, and gained quite a reputation on the British folk scene. She was invited to sing on a BBC radio broadcast and this led to a record deal with Saga Records (The Original Sandy Denny). Soon afterwards, she met Dave Cousins, who was preparing the first Strawbs record. He asked her to join the group, and soon after her acceptance she recorded "All Our Own Work" with them in Copenhagen. She stayed with The Strawbs for six months and made just one album with them. "All Our Own Work" was a melodic collection of songs featuring Sandy's haunting vocals and included the original version of her famed composition, "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?". The initial title of this haunting song was “Ballad of Time” and it was only the second song Sandy had ever written.

 

It was in 1968 during her brief six month stint with the Strawbs that Sandy first recorded the song “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” which reached its widest audience when Judy Collins chose the song as title track to her eighth album. Released before either of Sandy’s versions, the Judy Collins cover was also heard on the soundtrack of the 1968 Martin Sheen film, "The Subject Was Roses". However it is Sandy’s own recording with Fairport that remains so definitive.

 

During that period she also made a solo album called simply 'Sandy Denny'. In May 1968 Sandy joined Fairport Convention to replace Judy Dyble. She was to record three significant albums with this popular folk group. As lead singer for Fairport Convention she achieved the introduction of traditional folk songs into the group's repertoire. The first Fairport album recorded with Sandy, 'What We Did On Our Holidays', indicated the direction she was leading them.

Just before her second album with the group, 'Unhalfbricking' was to be released, Martin Lamble their drummer died in a car crash, along with Richard Thompson's then girlfriend Jeannie Franklyn, who also died, whilst returning from a concert from Birmingham. Fairport made some line-up changes bringing in Dave Mattacks on drums and Dave Swarbrick on violin. They went on to record 'Leige and Lief' which is justifiably regarded as the most important folk-rock album ever.

 

While with Fairport, Sandy had also strengthened her songwriting reputation when American singer Judy Collins recorded and had a hit with Sandy's 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes'. Eventually in late 1969 Sandy outgrew Fairport Convention. A lot of her best material dated from this period, but when Fairport vowed to pursue a purist path at the expense of original material, Sandy left to form Fotheringay. This accomplished band recorded a solitary album before internal pressures pulled it apart, but Denny's contributions, notably "The Sea", "Nothing More" and "The Pond And The Stream" rank among her finest work. The group consisted of bassist Pat Donaldson, guitarist Jerry Donahue, drummer Gerry Conway and guitarist Trevor Lucas who she married at a later date.

Fotheringay made one album together, of the same name as the band. The album promised great things but bad business management forced the group to disband while in the throes of recording a second album.

 

Sandy then began a successful solo career, kicking off with her debut album, "The North Star Grassman And The Ravens".
This was issued in 1971. It contained several excellent songs, including "Late November", "Blackwaterside" and the expansive "John The Gun", as well as sterling contributions from the renowned guitarist Richard Thompson, who would appear on all of the singer's releases. This was followed by an album simply called "Sandy" which was another memorable collection, notable for the haunting "It'll Take A Long Time" and a sympathetic cover version of Richard Farina's "Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood", a staple of the early Fairport Convention's set.

 

Together, these albums confirmed Sandy Denny as a major talent and a composer of accomplished, poignant songs. Sandy's later album 'Like An Old Fashioned Waltz' showed a definite change in direction as she risked doing several Fats Waller numbers. This album included the beautiful song "Solo".

In 1971, Robert Plant invited Sandy to duet with him on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album on the song "The Battle of Evermore", thus earning her the accolade of being the only guest vocalist ever to feature on a Zeppelin album. Sandy was voted twice as Britain's best female singer by ``Melody Maker'', in 1971 and 1972.

 

On 20th September 1973 Sandy married Trevor Lucas, with whom she'd performed alongside in both Fairport and Fotheringay. Despite her dislike of touring she rejoined the band in 1974. The original magic was not evident with poor live performances and the disappointing album Rising For The Moon, Denny and Lucas both left in December 1975.

Her career was affected by her alcohol consumption, which worried her friends and fellow musicians. Her private life suffered too. Sandy tried to settle into her married life while she worked on her next album, Rendezvous. This was a charming selection of songs, but took almost a year to complete. During this time, in July 1977 she gave birth to her daughter Georgia.

 

Plans were made to record a new set in America, but things went horribly wrong. Her marriage to Lucas was disintegrating. 'Rendezvous' was finally released in 1977 and was hailed as her best ever. During a visit to her parents home in Cornwall during March 1978 she tumbled down the stairs, allegedly drunk. Although it was a serious fall, cutting her head as she fell on a stone floor, she was not taken to hospital. Less than a month later she was found collapsed on the stairs of a friend's home.

(See Jill Broun's "true" account of Sandy's last few precious days here).

Four days later, at the aged of 31, on 21 April 1978, she died in hospital from a cerebral haemorrhage. She was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery. Her last concert on November 27, 1977 at the Royalty Theatre was later released as Gold Dust - Live At The Royalty. Further posthumous releases were the four cassettes and one CD, The Attic Tracks.

Heyday is a collection of radio broadcasts. Live studio tracks recorded for the BBC from that time were later released on The BBC Sessions 1971-73.

Sandy Denny was insecure and often lacked belief in her own talent, but she is regarded as one of the UK's finest singer-songwriters and her work has grown in stature over the years. Her effortless, smooth vocal delivery still sets the standard for many of today's female folk-based singers.

           
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