Personalities | Richard Thompson | Lauded by the Critics | Guitar Heroes

In his 40-year career as an award-winning songwriter, guitarist and musician’s musician, Richard Thompson (b. 1949) has won fans for his work as an original member of Fairport Convention, as part of a duo with former wife Linda Thompson and as a solo artist.

His songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, David Gilmour, The Corrs, Norma Waterson, The Blind Boys Of Alabama and many others.

Thompson was born in West London, England. His father was a Scotland Yard detective and an amateur guitar player. Several other family members played music professionally. Thompson embraced rock’n’roll music at an early age, but also absorbed his father’s collection of jazz and traditional Scottish music.

While still in school, he formed his first band Emil & the Detectives with classmate Hugh Cornwell on bass. By the age of 18 Thompson was playing with the newly formed Fairport Convention. Thompson’s guitar playing caught the ear of American producer Joe Boyd. Largely on the strength of Thompson’s playing Boyd signed them to his management company.

Soon Thompson developed a reputation as an outstanding guitar player and began writing songs seriously. By the time of Fairport Convention’s first album in 1969, Thompson was already crafting thoughtful songs with unconventional lyrics like ‘Meet On The Ledge’, ‘Genesis Hall’ and ‘Crazy Man Michael’.

In January 1971 Thompson left Fairport Convention and released his first solo album, Henry The Human Fly (1972). The album was not well received, but Thompson had begun a relationship with one of the album’s singers, Linda Peters, and they were married in October 1972. Linda would now be the primary interpreter of his songs.

The first Richard and Linda Thompson album, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight was released in April of 1974. The album impressed critics but did not sell well. The Thompsons recorded two more albums, Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver (1975), before the couple decided to join a Sufi Muslim commune in East Anglia.

Thompson started to re-engage with the world of professional music in 1977. The Thompsons moved out of the commune and back to Hampstead, before going back into the studio to record for the first time in three years. The next two albums, First Light (1978) and Sunnyvista (1979), slowly built their fan base, but didn’t sell. Their next album, a project produced by Gerry Rafferty, could not find a label. Finally, Shoot Out The Lights (1982) was lauded by critics and sold well in the UK and in the US.

The Thompsons, however, were finished as a couple, and after a difficult tour, professionally as well. With Hand Of Kindness (1983) Thompson the solo artist traded darkness and angst for outright swagger. Thompson began to tour regularly in the US. Encouraged by the success of his shows, he began to perform solo more often. In 1983 and 1984 he toured the US and Europe with The Richard Thompson Big Band, which...

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