A-Z of Dead Man Singing: R

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: R

27 days ago

R is for the Road. Tour bus conversations between Dave and his band-mates play a big part in Dead Man Singing. They offered the opportunity to shoe-horn in additional musical references which, as I’ve said before, were always carefully and deliberately chosen. Some of them – mostly Dink’s choices – were there for comic effect, while others – such as The Band’s ‘Long Black Veil’ – to allow the musicians to discuss wider issues that would have a bearing on later events in the book, and some even turn out to be pivotal moments in the plot.

R is also for Richard Thompson. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know how highly Dave Masters regards Thompson’s guitar playing, and in that regard, Dave and I are as one. I once saw Thompson described as the second-best electric guitar player after Hendrix and the second-best songwriter after Dylan, which is pretty good company to be keeping. I wouldn’t argue with that description, though it does neglect his peerless acoustic guitar work.

Richard Thompson first emerged as part of Fairport Convention, the band who arguably created the template for British folk-rock, before leaving to forge a successful career as part of a duo with his then-wife Linda Thompson and, post-divorce, as a solo act. I first saw him in 1986 at Hammersmith Palais, and since then I’ve lost count of how many of his gigs I’ve been to, either with a band or performing solo on an acoustic guitar. Over the years I’ve dragged a lot of friends along to see him, and whenever I’ve taken guitarists along, there is always – always – a moment when I can glance across in their direction and see an expression of literal slack-jawed awe at his playing. Most of my favourite musicians are songsmiths first and foremost, with lyrics a crucial ingredient in the mix. Thompson is as good a songwriter as any, but he’s also a phenomenal player. Rolling Stone magazine – who once listed him as number 18 in the greatest guitarists of all time – described him as ‘shooting out life-affirming riffs amid lyrics that make you want to jump off a bridge’. What’s not to like?

Listening to Richard Thompson play guitar is one of the cultural high points of my life. He became my favourite musician when I was 18 (it was probably Supertramp before that) and he’s kept that position ever since, some 37 years and counting. I’ve known his music for longer than I’ve known most of my closest friends, including my wife and my children, and his work means the world to me.

Who is your favourite musician? How has your answer to that changed over the years?

Comments
Gore

Came late. I fell for a work colleague,wanted to be my wife. We had a affair. She played Richard Thompson. I fell for both. We had children .we split.she kept Thompson CDs but I got a best of.

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