Linda Thompson Biography

Linda Pettifer, 1948, Hackney, London, England. Singer Linda Thompson was initially best-known for her collaborations with husband Richard Thompson. However, before meeting Richard she had collaborated with pop artists including Manfred Mann and Elton John (on advertising jingles and unreleased demos, respectively). Her relationship with Thompson developed just as he made the decision to leave Fairport Convention. The duo made their debut in 1974 with I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, a memorable collection on which Linda’s supple but deep vocals added resonance to some of her husband’s most convincing compositions. Linda and Richard co-wrote songs as their career together developed, including compositions such as ‘Pavanne’ (from 1978’s First Light). They toured with former Fairport Convention guitarist Simon Nicol as Hokey Pokey, a group which eventually expanded into a larger unit, Sour Grapes. The Thompsons also recorded their second and third albums (Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver) within 12 months of their first. Subsequent albums for Chrysalis Records furthered their reputation within the folk community, but it was 1982’s Hannibal Records set Shoot Out The Lights which many acclaim as their greatest set (it was nominated by Rolling Stone as the Best Album of 1982). However, the Thompson’s marriage was feeling the strain, and the duo made their final appearances together on a strained US tour.

While Richard resumed his solo career, Linda embarked on hers with the release of One Clear Moment in 1985. This included ‘Telling Me Lies’, which became a hit single when covered on the Trio album featuring Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Afterwards she returned to the folk clubs, also working on a National Theatre production of The Mysteries and appearing on Nicol’s debut solo album. A subsequent ‘lost’ album was recorded in Nashville in 1987, with guests including Bruce Hornsby and Jennifer Warnes, but the singer was unhappy with the final complexion of the recordings and it was never released.

Thompson was diagnosed as suffering from a condition known as hysterical dysphonia, which inhibits singing and brought a curtailment to her solo career. The excellent career retrospective Dreams Fly Away, released in 1996, is a listening experience to be treasured. Thompson’s beautiful voice has a distant hint of huskiness and the performances on tracks such as the traditional ‘I Live Not Where I Love’, her composition ‘Talking Like A Man’, and ‘Dimming Of The Day’ are outstanding. The album collected many unreleased items, including excerpts from 1987’s lost album.

Most commentators assumed Thompson would never sing again, so it was a great surprise that she made a return to the folk scene in the new millennium. The wittily titled Fashionably Late (2002) saw Thompson reunited with Richard on record for the first time in over 20 years, while her son Teddy Thompson and daughter Kamila also provided valuable contributions. Equally accessible was the 2007 follow-up Versatile Heart, with son Teddy making a major contribution in the songwriting department and as the main guitarist.

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