Mick Houghton: I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn: Biography Of Sandy Denny

Definitive work on Fairporter.

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So much myth and bitterness surrounds Denny’s premature death in April 1978 that it has overshadowed her back catalogue. It has most definitely coloured commentary on the life that preceded alcoholism and a steep career decline.

Mick Houghton’s authorative biography does much to redress the balance, realign a growing sense that she deserves even more acclaim and address a few injustices – including the lack of recompense for her vocals on Led Zep’s Battle Of Evermore.

The title is an appropriate one, Denny’s talent as a songwriter was to mix the mundane with fantasy – the song it is taken from, Solo, also renounces the attractions of wealth and fame, and for someone who refused to play the game, was close to a life’s motto.

From the recollections of friends and bandmates in the early 60s we meet an ordinary, shy, “slightly dumpy” suburban girl breaking into the folk scene, as seemingly uncomplicated and pure as her voice. An artist whose unflinchingly natural vocal style transcended genres and eras, Denny makes more sense today than she did in the late 70s.

As Houghton’s detailed discography demonstrates, there is still much to discover. The story’s punchline, however, remains as gloomy as ever./o:p