Anne Briggs Biography

29 September 1944, Toton, Nottinghamshire, England. Briggs started singing publicly in 1962 as part of the Centre 42 organization, a package show organized by the Trades Union Congress to bring culture to the provinces. The 17-year-old singer was signed up by musical director Ewan MacColl, leaving her home to tour with the movement. She squatted in London with a young Bert Jansch, the future guitar hero of the folk revival and Briggs’ occasional songwriting and romantic partner. Classic Briggs songs such as ‘Wishing Well’, ‘Go Your Way’ and ‘The Time Has Come’ dated from this period, and her repertoire was a rich source of material for Jansch’s pioneering 1966 album, Jack Orion. Her first recordings were two tracks for The Iron Muse, an album of British industrial songs organized by folklorist A.L. Lloyd, followed by her debut EP, The Hazards Of Love, recorded in 1963. Another collaboration with Lloyd, The Bird In The Bush, was a conceptual piece exploring erotica in English folk song. The recording included the singing of Frankie Armstrong.

Living up to her reputations as a wild character, Briggs spent several years travelling around Ireland with the highly influential electric folk group Sweeney’s Men, whose line-up included Briggs’ then boyfriend Johnny Moynihan. (Richard Thompson later based his wonderful song ‘Beeswing’ on Briggs). It was not until 1971 that Briggs’ first solo album was released by Topic Records. She was then misguidedly signed to CBS Records as part of their folk campaign, recording the mysterious and dreamlike The Time Has Come. In 1973 she recorded an abortive album, Sing A Song For You, which was finally released in 1997 by the Fledg’ling label.

An increasingly unhappy Briggs disappeared completely from the music scene to raise a family and work as a market gardener (it was only in 1990, after Fellside Records issued a compilation, Classic Anne Briggs, that her daughter even knew that Briggs had sung in folk clubs some 20 years earlier). After being persuaded to appear at a memorial concert for A.L. Lloyd in 1990, Briggs played a few club dates and appeared with Jansch, Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach in Acoustic Routes, a 1993 BBC documentary on the British folk scene of the 60s. She appeared on the soundtrack playing ‘Go Your Way’ with Jansch, her last recorded performance to date.

Briggs has been credited by many as a major influence on the singing styles and techniques of singers such as June Tabor and Maddy Prior, and there has been a resurgence of interest during the 90s and 00s following cover versions of her songs by a new wave of female folk singers including Eliza Carthy and Kate Rusby. She retains a quality that is timeless, given the content of her material.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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