SANDY DENNY – ” Who Knows Where The Time Goes “

Posted: April 22, 2018 in MUSIC
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Sandy Denny the haunting voice on Led Zep's Battle of Evermore

Robert Plant called her his “favorite singer out of all the British girls there ever were.” But a compliment of her singing alone undercuts the holistic talents of the musician Sandy Denny. To be sure: Her sublime voice stands on its own in the Anglo-folk canon, but her songwriting and lyricism are equally impressive. Both aspects of her talents remain essential to the fabric of the British folk-rock movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, in fact 40 years after her death, as an unexampled lyricist and songwriter, and an equally magnetic performer.

Born Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny and raised in the London suburb of Wimbledon, Denny was inspired early on by her grandmother, Mary Smith MacLean, whom she didn’t know well, but whose presence was fierce. MacLean insisted the young Denny be called “Sandy,” the Scottish shortening of Alexandra. She also brought to Denny’s blood a musical prowess and passion, as she’d been a known balladeer of arcane Scottish traditional tunes in her time.

After finishing primary school Denny began a short stint training as a nurse at a London hospital, at the behest of her prim parents, who didn’t see music as a viable career. Inspired by Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album, and encouraged by her older brother David, she began working out covers by American folk singers, as well as Scottish traditionals, on a hand-me-down acoustic guitar. After learning a few chords and practicing at home, she became an audience fixture among London’s folk music houses, which were inspired by the American folk scenes in Greenwich Village and North Beach in San Francisco, and were spreading like spores across the Big Smoke. Denny soaked in each performer studiously, and often sang covers on the floor as an unpaid warm-up between acts.

Though the Unhalfbricking version of “Who Knows…” is notable, and prompted a slew of covers, its full band noodling and subdued vocals temper its fire, making it more pleasant than powerful. Denny stayed on with Fairport through the recording of the heralded album Liege & Lief, their first record comprised mostly of adapted British and Celtic traditional songs, with Denny’s profound delivery front and center. Today, it’s considered the most important record in the British folk-rock movement, a beacon of modernity inspired by antiquity.

Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
John Peel Show 1973

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