Michael Chapman Biography

24 January 1941, Leeds, Yorkshire, England. A former teacher of art and photography, Chapman emerged from the relative obscurity of Britain’s folk club circuit with his 1969 debut, Rainmaker. This exceptional release, which contrasted excellent acoustic performances with a handful of rock-based pieces, revealed a gifted songwriter/guitarist and established his lachrymose delivery. Fully Qualified Survivor, the artist’s next collection, reached the Top 50 in the UK charts in March 1970, and included the emotional ‘Postcards Of Scarborough’, which remains his best-known work. Among the featured musicians was guitarist Mick Ronson, whose impressive contributions led to his subsequent collaborations with David Bowie. Chapman, meanwhile, continued to forge his mildly eccentric path, and following the release of his fourth album, Wrecked Again, toured the USA with long-time associate Rick Kemp. However, their partnership was dissolved upon their return when the bass player joined Steeleye Span. In 1973, Chapman switched record labels from Harvest Records to Decca Records, but subsequent releases failed to maintain his early promise.

The collapse of Criminal Records, the company responsible for several of his late 70s recordings, was a further blow, but Chapman maintained his popularity through live appearances. Chapman’s work as a solo artist from the late 70s and early 80s was admirably captured on Almost Alone, which included new performances of ‘Kodak Ghosts’, ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Dogs Got More Sense’. A brief reunion with Kemp in the latter part of this period resulted in the Original Owners album. In the late 80s, Chapman recorded several cassettes for his own Homemade Records label and signed to the Coda label to perform New Age music (a tag that he reportedly despises), enabling him to demonstrate his exemplary guitar skills. After recovering from a heart attack in August 1991, and playing alongside Kemp in his band Savage Amusement, Chapman resumed his customary treks across the UK. He recorded a new album in 1993, Still Making Rain, and hit a late peak with Navigation in 1995. Dreaming Out Loud was another good album, but was slightly marred by the loss of ‘acousticity’ of his guitar. Chapman’s songs have greater impact in a ‘wooden’ environment. His voice, however, has ripened beautifully. Rob Beattie in Q magazine perceptively summed up Chapman’s voice as ‘a delivery that makes John Martyn sound like a Shakespearean voice coach’. Both artists remain painfully ignored yet hugely talented.

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

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