Song of the Week – Late November, Sandy Denny

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British artist Sandy Denny was among the best singer/songwriters of the late 60s/early 70s. If you’re not familiar with her work you should check it out.

Denny started her recording in 1967 with The Strawbs. Shortly thereafter, she left to join the English folk group Fairport Convention that also counted Richard Thompson as a member.

She was with Fairport on the last two of their first three, seminal albums. She also had a key role on the fourth, Liege & Lief, although she had left the band to form a new group, Fotheringay, before its release.

Liege & Lief was recorded in the aftermath of a road accident that killed the band’s drummer, Martin Lamble, and Jeannie Franklyn, Thompson’s girlfriend at the time. Other members of the band were injured but Denny escaped because she was in a different car with her boyfriend.

This all leads to today’s SotW, “Late November,” from Denny’s first solo album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971).

It has been said that “Late November” was inspired by a dream of Denny’s that portended the fateful auto accident. Rob Young, of The Guardian, wrote:

She turned all these premonitions and real and imaginary cataclysms into song. “Late November”… encompasses all that’s great about Denny’s music: heaving with a slow, pitching swell, carrying a cargo of weird omens and morbid visions. So many of her songs from this period are set at sea or on wind-battered coasts, reflecting the enduring role the sea has played in British folk song. The folk canon abounds with shanties, press-gang songs, ballads of transportation and farewell, of superstition and of supernatural water beasts.

The song has a gorgeous melody and is sung beautifully by Denny. (As a bonus it contains a Thompson guitar solo!) It is a classic.

Denny is also well known for writing the elegant “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” that was covered adroitly by Judy Collins. Some of you may remember her duet with Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin IV’s “The Battle of Evermore.”

In the spring of 1978, Denny died of complications from bonking her head after falling down a staircase, in combination with drug and alcohol abuse. She was only 31 years old.

Enjoy… until next week.

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