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53 f


Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker


Eliza Carthy


Billy Bragg


Anthems In Eden and Love, Death And The Lady and No Roses. My real achievement perhaps though was my complete loyalty to English song and my repertoire throughout my career – which I feel holds good even now for the new album (also due out next year). And I am most proud of the work that my sister Dolly and I did together.”


“Greatest regret? One: being unable to sing for over 30 years. Two: being unable to walk the distances on the South Downs I once could. Greatest fear? Still spiders! Greatest pleasure – not to be shared!”


When was it that she found she could start singing again?


“It was Saturday February 8th 2014 at The Union Chapel, Islington. I sang for David Tibet at his concert; he’d been asking me for years to do something, and I kept chickening out. So I finally agreed – and did it. It was terrifying, but the audience was extremely kind! I sang All The Pretty Little Horses (at David’s request) and Death And The Lady, accompanied on guitar by Ian Kearey who


Gold badger Ian Anderson (centre) with Ian Kearey, Shirley, Alan James and Ben Mandelson.


was with me at Cecil Sharp House (although it wasn’t the Muddy Waters version I sang for Ian!). Since then, I’ve done more and been getting more confident.”


comment about her being ‘along for the ride’ – “Yeah – that’s blokes for you…” – which she’s publicly acknowledged prompt- ed her to write America Over The Water. Shirley has also previously revealed the role of ex-husband Ashley Hutchings in her dys- phonia (loss of normal vocal function) as well as the idiotic posturing and unkind- ness she suffered from Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger. It’s difficult not to wonder if in retrospect she thinks they were simply threatened by her talent. Otherwise why were they so vituperative?


H


“The casual misogyny of the times would be a good part of it. But probably I


aving attended one of Shirley’s talks (at Goldsmiths College ethnomusicology department), I read with astonishment Alan Lomax’s


think in retrospect, it’s because I didn’t have to invent myself. I was a working-class girl with a quite profound sense of English music born in me (although that sounds pre- tentious – but I think it’s true).”


I mention that I think her being unable to sing for so many years has had a negative impact on the development of the English folk scene; and speaking personally the pre- vailing nasal, sanctimonious singing style was entirely annoying and put me off exploring my own traditional culture. But hearing her sing opened the door for me.


“Thanks, Elizabeth,” she sweetly replies, “that means a lot. I couldn’t – and still can’t – bear that phoney way of singing. I could only ever sing in my own voice – and although I was sometimes mocked or criti- cised for it, I think the years have proved me right. And even now, although I no longer have a good young voice, I believe that I still know how to sing a song.”


www.shirleycollins.co.uk F


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