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Larry Kirwan
Chorus and Verse Blog
Posted: April 3, 2012 07:56 pm (-05:00)
Larry Kirwan
Musician/Novelist/Activist - Leader of Black 47
Sandy Denny

A hush often falls on conversation when the name Sandy Denny arises, usually accompanied by sighs and a gentle shaking of the head. The initial pain at her passing over thirty years ago has eased but many of her admirers still experience a deep sense of loss.

What is it about Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny? And why does she touch us still? I really don't know, but even as I write this I'm filled with a sense of gentle melancholia. It definitely had something to do with her voice. Even as a very young woman, that instrument ached with experience.

How could she have written a masterpiece like "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" as a teenager? And to compound matters, it was rumored to be her first composition. During an interview with Richard Thompson for Celtic Crush, I asked him if this was true. He replied that to the best of his knowledge it was and, at any rate, she'd had the song when he first met her.

Fairport Convention are merely a footnote now in rock history but there was a time in the late 60's/early 70's when their influence was huge and their star shone brightly. There wasn't a woman singer at the time that didn't look up to Ms. Denny. Sandy, herself, was racked by insecurity. She longed for mainstream success but was unsure about, among other things, her appearance. Add to that a harsh shyness and an uncertainty about celebrity.

Despite these doubts she was an electric performer who devoured light. When she was onstage it was hard to take your eyes off her, notwithstanding the fact that she was always accompanied by stellar and equally charismatic musicians the like of Richard Thompson and her husband, Trevor Lucas. I guess it was her intensity. The song was everything to her and she effortlessly channeled the times, along with the ghosts of the people she sang about.

Take a listen to Banks of the Nile with her band Fotheringay. I still delight in the perfection of the song's arrangement; and then that voice laying bare the story of a girl who dresses as a soldier to find her lover in England's army fighting Napoleon in Egypt.

Or lose yourself in the longing and regret of No End where she mourns for the idealism of an artist she loved and admired. Now that he's forsaken his craft and her what's left? Well, actually, a lot, in particular that ineffable feeling we've all experienced at being let down but were never quite able to put into words.

Sandy died from a brain hemorrhage after a fall down a stairs in 1978. At the end of our interview, I asked Richard Thompson to describe Sandy. After praising her originality, voice and craft, he halted for a moment then continued in his very understated English manner, "she was a woman of considerable appetites."

Lucky for us, I suppose, for her songs, though delicate, throb with life, loss and pain. She was the best and we're lucky to have been touched by her considerable talents, spirit and soul.

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan is the leader, singer/guitarist and composer for the Irish-American rock band Black 47. Black 47 has released thirteen CDs for both major and independent labels. The band has appeared on Leno, Letterman and O'Brien and been profiled in most major magazines and newspapers in the US. Their album, Trouble in the Land, was recently voted the "top album of the decade" by readers of www.Irishcentral.com. Bankers and Gangsters, Black 47's latest CD, was released in March 2010 by UFO Music.

Kirwan has also recorded Kilroy Was Here and Keltic Kids as solo efforts.

He has written twelve plays and musicals, five of which are collected in the book Mad Angels. Liverpool Fantasy, his best-known play, has been produced Off-Broadway and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He has also written a novel version of Liverpool Fantasy (translated into Japanese, Spanish and Greek), a memoir - Green Suede Shoes - and Livin' in America, a collection of songs and stories. Rockin' The Bronx, his latest novel, was recently published in the US and UK/Ireland.

Kirwan hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo.

A political activist, he has long been involved in Irish and American causes.

He is currently working on a new novel about the aftermath of 9/11 and a musical with Thomas Keneally of Schindler's List fame.

Connect with Larry Kirwan on:
Black 47 Official Website Black 47 Official Website
Black 47 on Facebook Black 47 on Facebook
Black 47 on Twitter Black 47 on Twitter
©2012, Chorus and Verse
Recent Blogs By Larry Kirwan [ CLICK FOR FULL LIST ]
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