Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975


By Richard Thompson

With Scott Timberg

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“Thompson is a master showman . . .  [Beeswing is] everything you’d hope a Richard Thompson autobiography would be . . . It’s both major and minor, dirge and ditty, light on its feet but packing a punch.”
The Wall Street Journal

An intimate look at the early years of one of the world’s most significant and influential guitarists and songwriters.

In this moving and immersive memoir, Richard Thompson, international and longtime beloved music legend, recreates the spirit of the 1960s, where he found, and then lost, and then found his way again.

Known for his brilliant songwriting, his extraordinary guitar playing, and his haunting voice, Thompson is considered one of the top twenty guitarists of all time, in the songwriting pantheon alongside Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Randy Newman. Now, in his long-awaited memoir, the British folk musician takes us back to the late 1960s, a period of great change and creativity—both for him and for the world at large.

Thompson packed more than a lifetime of experiences into his late teens and twenties. During the pivotal years of 1967 to 1975, just as he was discovering his passion for music, he formed the band Fairport Convention with some schoolmates and helped establish the genre of British folk rock. That led to a heady period of songwriting and massive tours, where Thompson was on the road both in the UK and the US, and where he crossed paths with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix. But those eight years were also marked by change, upheaval, and tragedy. Then, at the height of the band’s popularity, Thompson left to form a duo act with his wife Linda. And as he writes revealingly here, his discovery and ultimate embrace of Sufism dramatically reshaped his approach to music—and of course everything else.

An honest, moving, and compelling memoir, Beeswing vividly captures the life of a remarkable artist during a period of creative intensity in a world on the cusp of change.



To Jump like Alice

I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry as I need it.

John Cage

There is dust, and then there is dust. It's thickest here, in my memory. This remotest room of my mind has been shut up for years, the windows shuttered, the furniture covered with dust sheets. Light hasn't penetrated into some of these corners for years; in some cases it never has. If something is uncomfortable, I shove it in here and forget about it. When was the last time I dared look? I don't want to remember, but now it is time to think back. The arrow is arcing through the air and speeding towards its appointed target.

Then there is the dust of London. When my story begins, in the 1960s, the fog is lifting a little. The choking smogs of my childhood, with visibility down to a yard, have been curtailed, for the sake of public health, by the Clean Air Act of 1956. The dust, dirt and grime of a million coal fires, hundreds of steam trains and massive power stations is receding as they are slowly replaced by cleaner fuel—but I miss it. I miss the sulphurous fog that linked you to the London of Sherlock Holmes and Dickens, that inspired visiting French Impressionists to paint the city's blurred sunrises and sunsets, and that made everything soft and mysterious. It was part of London, and part of being a Londoner. I suppose even poison is something you can grow fond of.

In the spring of 1967 I had just turned eighteen, and there was another kind of dust in my life entirely, so thick you could see it hang in the air, composed of 50 percent chalk, 30 percent boredom and 20 percent dull amusement. The dust of school gets into your lungs—molecules of it are still in there, I swear, clinging to the bronchioles like crabs to a sea wall, even fifty years later. No amount of violent coughing or deep breathing will shift it. It seems to have penetrated my DNA. Maybe that's why I still dream about school, guilty dreams, dreams of unfulfillment, dreams where I'm avoiding, running away, non-confronting. On a sunny day, and the sun still shone in black and white in 1967, you could see the dust hanging in the sunbeams like cigarette smoke caught in the projector beam at the local flea pit.

At least I was on the final lap. A few more months, a few more exams, and I would be paroled at last, free after thirteen years of incarceration. I had no stomach for further education, and I had no plan A, B or C. The thought of spending another three years in an institution did not appeal. Hospitals, prisons, schools, insane asylums—in Britain they all seemed to have been designed by the same Victorian sadist, and all shared the same decor: Urine Green and Despair Grey. I went to a "good" school, William Ellis Grammar, on the edge of Hampstead Heath. The Heath has been described as "the lungs of London," a rural enclave a fifteen-minute Tube ride from the center of the city. Sitting on London clay and Bagshot sand, it could never be built upon with reliability, which saved it from the developers. The school supplied a fair number of candidates to Oxford and Cambridge, and provided a fine education for those who could be bothered—but I drifted through it. I only cared about the guitar.

One of my earliest memories, from when I was about three, is of the attic at 23 Ladbroke Crescent. Notting Hill, just west of Central London, was a fairly run-down area in the early fifties, and our street was pockmarked with shrapnel damage from the war. In fact, one end of the street was a bomb site. It was fenced off, of course, but we kids found a way in and played joyfully among the smashed porcelain, knee-scraping rubble and broken artifacts of ruined lives. My family—my father, my mother, my sister Perri and I—lived in a flat in the upper half of the house, a few doors down from my mother's father at number 19. My grandad kept chickens in his back garden, and would often run out into the street with a shovel after a horse and cart had passed by to get the manure for his roses. I remember being taken up to the attic by my parents, presumably so they could keep an eye on me while they looked for something. I had never been in an attic before, so it was a new and thrilling experience. At one point, my father opened a case and pulled out a magical wooden box with strings on it. The box made noises, and you could change them by turning the pegs at the end. My father ran his hand across the strings. It sounded like heaven, and I wanted to hear more, but after a minute or so he put it back in the case, and I never saw it again. Did he sell it soon afterwards? Perhaps he thought it a luxury at a time when money was tight, but its sound stayed with me.

If Dad was not much of a guitarist, he did have plenty of records. In among the albums of show tunes that everyone's parents seemed to own, and the Perry Como and the Gilbert and Sullivan, there were jazz records—Fats Waller, Meade Lux Lewis, Duke Ellington—and among these were lots of guitar 78s. There was the Quintette du Hot Club de France, including the astonishing Django Reinhardt; there was Lonnie Johnson, playing with the Louis Armstrong Hot Seven; and then there was Les Paul, inventing multitrack recording. I remember lying on a sea-green shagpile rug in the living room, with my ear a foot from the radiogram speaker. I must have been all of five years old. Much of the furniture in the room was mid-century modern, G-Plan, but the dark walnut radiogram seemed ancient.

I liked some of my father's records and disliked others; I seemed to have some sort of critical instinct, even at such a young age. Dad would keep up a running commentary on the music, in his cockney-inflected Scottish accent. He'd talk mostly to himself, reverentially, like a tour guide at the Vatican. "Louis Armstrong Hot Five—recorded in 1926 . . . that's Earl Hines on piano . . . I saw him in Glasgow in the thirties." He'd always sound authoritative, but I could tell he was reading most of it off the back of the record sleeve. The next thing he put on grabbed me and held my attention. It started with percussion, before slowly sprouting wings and sounding like nothing I had ever heard. The only thing I could compare it to was the music played on radio or TV programs to evoke alien worlds and life forms. "Caravan," said my father. "That's a Duke Ellington tune, played by Les Paul on guitar. He did the whole thing himself." I didn't understand what I was hearing—I only knew that it sounded like it was from Mars, and that it was fabulous. I didn't know how to ask to hear it again, so I just waited for the next time.

My sister Perri was five years my senior, and when rock and roll hit Britain in 1956, first with Bill Haley and then with Elvis, she was strongly identifying with the baby boomer generation. Even back then, at the tender age of twelve, she pitched her look somewhere between Julie Christie and Brigitte Bardot. I don't remember a time when boys weren't hanging around—and some of them played the guitar and brought over records.

Here was music that was not controlled by the grown-ups. The great watershed had arrived—it was goodbye to the saccharine saxophones of the 1940s, to rationing and austerity, and your parents' world of wartime sacrifice and post-war peace and quiet. The boomers had arrived, and they wanted it loud, primitive and exciting. The rock and roll of Jerry Lee, Gene, Eddie and Buddy started to rumble through the wall from my sister's bedroom.

After our family moved to Highgate in the mid-fifties, to a better, newly-built flat, we went to the famous and ancient Hampstead Heath Fair twice a year, and there you could hear rock and roll properly—cranked up loud as a soundtrack to the dodgems, on huge speakers with tons of bass. The sound carried literally for miles. The noise thumped right into your chest and rearranged your intestines. It was a soundtrack for the beautiful ballet of rebellion of the spivs leaping from car to car to take the money, for the Teddy boys going to the insane edge of daring on the switchback to impress their girlfriends.

And because my father was born and grew up in Scotland, every summer we would drive up to the Scottish Lowlands for a two-week holiday. We would stay with my father's parents in Dumfries for a few days, before driving a few more miles to the Solway coast, where the family had a chalet. The seaside was special, but I especially loved tagging along with Perri as she explored Dumfries's three coffee bars. Each establishment had a jukebox, and they all played the records loud, with tons of low end. At night I would hang out of the bedroom window and listen to Buddy Holly being played in the cafe three streets away. This music seemed more important than anything else in my life, with the possible exception of model trains and the Beano.

Of course, guitars were central to this whole culture. They were starting to crop up on TV, on shows for teenagers like Six-Five Special and Oh Boy!, and on the variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium, which my parents would watch, commenting on any rock and roll content ("Long-haired layabouts!" or "What a bloody racket!"). Joe Brown was probably the first home-grown British guitar hero. He'd appear backing the American acts on Oh Boy! and then do a spot on his own. Joe had a winning cockney manner and a great haircut, and he played with a certain streetwise authenticity. As I would find out in later years, he was also one of the nicest human beings you could hope to meet.

I started asking for a guitar for Christmas from about the age of six. My parents warmly responded with a succession of plastic ukuleles, tin Roy Rogers mini-guitars that exploded upon impact and toy banjos covered in clowns' faces. Even at the age of six, I knew I was being fobbed off. I would really try to play them and would point out the deficiencies to my father. He didn't have an answer, except to put these pathetic toys into something approximating tuning and wander off, muttering to himself.

In 1960, when I was eleven, the situation became more urgent. Cliff Richard's backing group, the Shadows, scored a number one hit with "Apache." All over Britain, instrumental bands were trying to emulate Hank Marvin's fabulous tone on the Fender Stratocaster. Posing in front of a mirror with a tennis racquet would no longer suffice.

My father was in the Metropolitan Police, and at that time was serving with the Flying Squad. Charing Cross Road was part of his beat, and one of his old army buddies worked in a music shop called Lew Davis. They had a damaged guitar they were going to throw away—the side had split open in transit from Spain—and Dad, who had trained as a joiner, brought it home and repaired it. He had some idea that he was going to play it. My sister also had designs on it. And I had other ideas. It was as if this sacred object was being pulled towards me by a giant magnet. This was my destiny, and no one else stood a chance. Someone loaned me a guitar instruction manual, Play in a Day by Bert Weedon. If you saw or heard Bert on a radio or TV variety show, you would deem it impossible that he had replaced Django Reinhardt in the Quintette du Hot Club de France, as he always seemed slightly corny and "mumsy" as a player, but he was actually the most famous guitarist in Britain and had written a beginner's guitar manual that everyone seemed to start with. It must have sold a million copies, and it actually worked—you really could learn to play something in a day! Having mastered "Bobby Shaftoe," with its C, G7 and tricky D minor chords, the musical world opened up to me, and "Apache" proved not too difficult.

I was very shy, and from around the age of six I developed a stutter. The causes of this are not always clear—my mother thought it started for me after a bout of dysentery, but there was probably a psychological factor. I lived in fear of my father, who was sometimes drunk and always Calvinistic—a common Scottish combination—so I never knew when I was going to get whacked. My mother was loving, kind and always there for me, but her attentions could make me feel a bit claustrophobic. My sister would stay in her room, playing her records and smoking her Gauloise cigarettes. She did from time to time take on my father head to head, though—no one was going to tell her how to live her life. I'm grateful to her for that, because by the time I was fifteen and starting to stay out later, Perri had exhausted my parents, which meant that I got an easier ride. Music became my place of escape. I found speaking difficult, and schoolkids could be mercilessly cruel about it. Standing up in front of class to read out a passage of a story was torture and embarrassment, but I was able to communicate through music.

I remember sitting in the school cafeteria, totally in my own world, singing Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel" half out loud, my body jerking along with the rhythm of the words, my food untouched. A small crowd was gathering around me, but I didn't notice.

"All right, what's going on here?"

"It's Thompson, Miss. He's gone mental!"

"Go back to your seats. Thompson, snap out of it and eat your lunch!"

At the age of eleven, I went to secondary school and began formal music lessons, but I found it hard to relate what I was learning by ear to the notes on a page. Just a few years ago, I was sitting down to Christmas dinner at my sister's house, and there on my plate was my school report book, which Perri had found among some family papers. This odious document contained some ugly truths about me that I thought were but tiny specks in the rear-view mirror. Then, to the amusement of everyone, Perri read out a succession of reports from the music master, Herr Prinz, damning me as a musical no-hoper, not to mention a disruptive and lazy so-and-so. How they chuckled, but it's true that I used to have a hard time reading music. I'm still very slow, and can write it much faster than I can read it—I think I might be a bit dyslexic, because things sometimes get scrambled before my eyes. Anyway, after this embarrassing interlude, I pocketed the offending document and put it on the fire when no one was looking.

One of my best friends, Malcolm Fuller, who lived around the corner from me, also got the guitar bug and convinced his parents to buy him one. As a couple of twelve-year-olds, we could now jam along to the Shadows, to our hearts' content. I had about a week's head start on him, so I got to play lead and he played rhythm. Our parents soon found us a classical guitar tutor, Pete, but I'm not sure how. He must have advertized in the newsagent's window or in the local paper. Every week, Malcolm and I would get the bus over to the Caledonian Road for our lesson.

Pete lived in a house that was basically condemned. He had managed to bypass the gas meter so there was heating, but there was no electricity, so everything was candlelit, which we thought rather exciting and bohemian. The stairs were rickety, and the floorboards gave considerably as you put your weight on them. Pete had the Brylcreem- and-sideburns look of a Teddy boy, a style that was fast going out of fashion in 1961, but he was a nice guy and a real guitar enthusiast—as well as being a very good player. He shared his house with another guitarist, and our time there was always focused. Pete helped me to read music a bit better, and the introductory pieces he gave us got my fingers moving independently, for which I have always been grateful.

I soon got bored with Pete's guitar exercises and wanted to go straight to the classics of the repertoire. I owned a few classical guitar and flamenco records. I loved the French guitarist Ida Presti, whose duets with her husband Alexandre Lagoya have never been equalled. She had small hands, and you would occasionally hear some fret noise, but she had such passion—in some ways, I try to emulate her musical soul even now. That year, my parents took me to the Festival Hall to see the man who developed the classical guitar as a concert instrument, the great Andrés Segovia. He was nearly seventy years old and seemed ancient. He had fat sausage-like fingers, but his playing seemed effortless and he sounded like an angel. I was beginning to understand that while it is easy to play classical guitar simply, it is phenomenally difficult to play it well.

Our lessons lasted for a year or so, and then one week we turned up and Pete wasn't there. Neither was his house. It had been bulldozed to the ground, and we never heard from him again. Our parents speculated that he was in prison for defrauding the council and the gas board. That was the end of our classical lessons, and it was probably just as well, because we were both losing enthusiasm. I was also facing stiff competition. In my year at school, out of ninety boys, there were two classical guitar whizz kids. Carlos Bonell, Spanish by heritage, has had a long and successful career as a concert guitarist. The other was a kid called Paul Lomax, a pale, English working-class Mod. He was a student of Len Williams, father of John Williams, and even appeared on TV at the age of fourteen. I was seriously outgunned and sought refuge in the less crowded fields of rock and folk.

By 1963, at the age of fourteen, Malcolm and I had formed a band with some boys from his school—St. Aloysius' College, a Catholic school on Highgate Hill. On Sunday afternoons, we would rehearse over in Dalston at the house of Marrik, the bass player—his parents were the most tolerant of the racket we were making, and also had a tasty line in Polish pastries. Michael "Elvis" Burke was the lead guitarist and would go on to have a career in music, while John Wood was the drummer (not to be confused with the sound engineer of the same name). I still only owned an acoustic guitar, albeit a better, steel-string one, so I played rhythm alongside Malcolm. We would typically rehearse for an hour and then spend three hours arguing about a name for the group—we never managed to agree on one. After a year or so, a slot came up at the St. Aloysius school dance, and we decided that we were going to fill it. By this time, the Beatles had appeared on the scene, and the Shadows were old hat. We needed to sound more like a beat group, and beat groups had singers. We found three from the dubious well of talent that was St. Aloysius' College, making us a very unwieldy eight-piece.

This show was the lever that I needed to convince my father to buy me an electric guitar. Once again, we drew on the friendship of his army mate at Lew Davis, and I scored a very battered sunburst Hofner V3, with holes worn through the pickups, as well as a Selmer Selectortone amplifier, with a stunning fifteen watts of power.

As often happens with young bands, our first show was also our last. We were chronically under-amplified and probably sounded atrocious. The crowd jeered—perhaps there were also some school politics I was unaware of—and started to throw coins at us. Coins are a little lighter nowadays, but in 1963 the old, heavy pennies were still in circulation, and when you threw them, you spun them edgewise like a discus. If they connected with flesh, it hurt. At one point I looked over at Malcolm, who was still managing to smile heroically. He had recently acquired a blood-red Japanese electric guitar, with a white pickguard—except it was now the same color as the guitar's body because he was bleeding all over it from a gash where a penny had struck his hand. We finished the set and bandaged our wounds. There was a pow-wow soon after, and the core of the group sensibly reconfigured into a Johnny Kidd and the Pirates-style three-piece, with vocalist. The rest of us "resigned."

I gained a lot of inspiration from one of my sister's long-term boyfriends, a guy called Richard Roberts-Miller, who helped me with the guitar from the beginning. I'm still grateful to Perri for her lifelong habit of being an hour late for everything, including dates. Richard would come around to pick her up, and because she wasn't ready, I'd get a guitar lesson. "Big Muldoon," as I called him, could play all of Buddy Holly's songs—indeed, he had something of the look of Buddy Holly, complete with the horn-rimmed glasses. Muldoon could also play the Shadows' repertoire and a selection of other rock and roll. He lent my sister and me the first Bob Dylan record and a great EP by the New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin, which helped me learn how to use the fingerstyle technique in a wider context. Muldoon was always friendly, funny and never condescending, even though I was six years his junior.

A subsequent boyfriend of Perri's was Bob Nadkarni, a fellow student of hers at Hornsey College of Art. As often happens with the sons of vicars, they either conform and go into the family business, or rebel, and Bob definitely did the latter—he was every inch the bohemian artist. He played good gut-string guitar; at the time, he was very influenced by the guitarist, lutenist and singer Desmond Dupré, and I stole a lot from Desmond via Bob. Bob would come round the house and perform with little inhibition, singing and playing at the top of his voice to an audience of one, and I would sit and make mental notes of his chords, harmonies and technique. My mind was like a sponge, and every single style and facet of music was relevant.

I found a musical ally at school in Hugh Cornwell, who would later have great success with the Stranglers. He was one of my closest friends—we were both lamppost-thin in those days, and bonded over a mutual love of cricket, a shared confusion over girls and a fascination with the music that you heard around London and on the radio—mostly rhythm and blues, and pop. Hugh, an upbeat and positive boy, was concentrating on sciences at school and was also a talented cartoonist. He bought a home-made bass guitar from another kid at school, before graduating to a Hofner Beatle. With Malcolm on rhythm and a lad called Dave on drums, we rehearsed regularly at a church hall in Highgate and played sporadically at clubs and parties around North London. At some point Malcolm dropped out—I don't remember why—and we became a three-piece. Then we recruited Nick Jones, another William Ellis boy, to replace Dave. Though he seemed a step up as a drummer, it is dangerous to have Keith Moon as your hero. Moonie would play impossible drum fills but land miraculously on the beat; Nick would try the same thing and land in a different song!

Nick's father was the great Max Jones, the jazz critic of the Melody Maker, and their house in Muswell Hill was groaning with jazz 78s. He liked me because I could answer his jazz trivia questions, having read his column since I was twelve years old: "Coleman Hawkins?" "Tenor." "Chet Baker?" "Trumpet." "Zutty Singleton?" "Drums." Max's close friendship with so many of the jazz greats, and his vivid descriptions of them, meant that as I listened to their music, it almost felt like I knew them.

Melody Maker had begun in 1926, in the early days of dance bands. A weekly music paper, it had two pages of jazz and two pages of folk, as well as covering every other scene, from Liverpool to Los Angeles and New York. It was where I first heard about psychedelia, John Coltrane, the Butterfield Blues Band and a young folk singer called Sandy Denny. And very importantly, it had a small ads section for recruiting band members. A typical ad of the time would read:

Wanted: Singer for Tull/Quo/Shack-type band that's going places. Must have own PA. Hair, passport, image essential. No time-wasters. No jazzers.

Over the years, the various bands I was in had occasional need of the Melody Maker ads page.

On Saturday mornings, I would take the Tube into town and tour the guitar shops, dreaming of owning some of the wondrous instruments on display. I would also visit the bookshops, and at some point I wandered into Watkins bookshop in Cecil Court—the occult theme of the window display was irresistible. I bought a book called Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps, and was hooked:

A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern. Had he known what fire was, he could have cooked his rice much sooner.

Though it was cryptic and puzzling, this made more sense to me than the Presbyterian Church services I had been dragged to from an early age. You could not solve it by thought alone—you had to become a different person. This started me on a quest for meaning in my life. I dreamed of Jesus, but he was mutated and weird.* I visited Watkins regularly over the next ten years.

Muswell Hill was a quiet and leafy suburb of North London, about as far from the center of town as my home in Highgate was. These commuter communities had been villages until they were swallowed up by urban sprawl between the wars. Around the age of sixteen, I started playing with Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol in a band that was to become Fairport Convention, and Muswell Hill became my musical focus. Inconveniently, my parents had moved from Highgate by that point, to the suburban wilds of Whetstone, perilously close to the end of the Tube's Northern Line. The journey to band practice now involved waiting for buses that would sometimes never arrive. If I went to see the Who on a Tuesday night at the Marquee Club, I could watch the first set and catch the last train home. If I wanted to see the second set, I knew I would have to walk home—and it was usually worth it—a distance of ten miles, on a school night. No wonder my grades were slipping. I would console myself on these strange nocturnal journeys with thoughts of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who, finding himself without the fare for the coach from London to Oxford one night, decided to walk, a distance of fifty-five miles. They walked more in those days. There is also the story of Johann Sebastian Bach walking two hundred miles to another town to try out a new organ. Ten miles wasn't such a long way, and I broke it down into mile-long twenty-minute segments to keep myself sane. The world is different at night—inanimate things come alive, and once I was in the suburbs, I would often see not a soul. Many years later, I wrote a song called "Walking the Long Miles Home"*:

Oh the last bus has gone

Or maybe I'm wrong

It just doesn't exist

And the words that flew

Between me and you

I must be crossed off your list

So I'm walking the long miles home

And I don't mind losing you

In fact I feel better each step of the way

In the dark I rehearse all the right things to say

I'll be home, I'll be sober by break of day

Walking the long miles home


  • Beeswing is wry, un-ponderous, anti-obligatory. Because the sound Thompson created with Fairport was rooted in centuries-old songs, he isn’t captive to ’60s clichés; and because British electric folk is off the classic-rock grid . . . The book’s period accent makes it feel fresh and exploratory.”
    The New York Times Book Review

    “Mr. Thompson is a master showman. The balancing act of major and minor, strung together by his witty, self-deprecating banter, is the crux of Mr. Thompson’s shows, and that same equipoise between dirge and ditty is the hallmark of Beeswing: It’s everything you’d hope a Richard Thompson autobiography would be . . . It’s both major and minor, dirge and ditty, light on its feet but packing a punch: like the very best Richard Thompson show.”
    —Wesley Stace​, The Wall Street Journal

    “Richard Thompson is one of the world’s great guitarists and songwriters and, with Beeswing, Richard adds master memoirist to his long list of artistic accomplishments. Beeswing is a fascinating look at his formative years in the vibrant, vital London music scene of the 1960s.”
     —Bob Mould, musician and songwriter

    “I admire Richard Thompson so much, and I found Beeswing as inspiring as his music. I devoured and savored it.”
    Steve Gunn, musician and songwriter

    “A beloved musician’s memoir is cause for celebration . . . The prose is smart and smartly moving . . . [Beeswing] documents a beloved band’s prime existence.”
    —RJ Smith, Los Angeles Times

    “An absorbing, witty, often deliciously biting read.” 
    Los Angeles Times Review of Books

    “[Thompson] is never less than razor-sharp, and credit is due for including both the highs and lows . . .  [His] spell is never broken, and, as on disc, his is a welcome voice to meet on the page. Readers will be eager for the next volume of the story. Like a great Richard Thompson solo, this title contains surprise, beauty, delight, and a voice like no other. His autobiography is as welcome as it is long overdue.”
     —Library Journal, starred review

    “Thompson has a reputation as a guitarists’ guitarist and a top-notch singer-songwriter . . . With Beeswing, Thompson proves himself equally adept as a memoirist . . . Just as he has a knack for lyrics, Thompson has a way with words on the page, offering colorful portraits of his contemporaries and collaborators . . . Thompson’s humor and insight also shine. He evocatively recreates a time and place, and, like his shows, his memoir leaves you wanting more.”
     —Booklist, starred review

    “More than a typical celebrity memoir, Beeswing is thoughtful, well written and at times very funny. With his sophisticated songs and distinctive guitar work, Thompson, 72, has long been the thinking person's musician. Turns out he's also the thinking person's memoirist.”
     —Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    “[Thompson] offers plenty of insight into the early days of Fairport Convention and its ever-changing lineup along with charming anecdotes.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

    “Readers who regard Thompson as a major figure in the arts will consider this a must-read.”
     —Publishers Weekly

    “With pure alchemy, Richard Thompson created his own iconic guitar style, electrifying and reimagining Celtic music and going on to write some of the most passionate, intelligent and heartbreaking songs I know.” 
    Bonnie Raitt

    “Thompson is extraordinarily special: a singer-songwriter of rare bite and insight; an emphatic moderniser of ancient traditions; a guitarist with few equals.”

    “Intimate, honest . . . For Fairport Convention fans, this book offers a teasure trove of information.”
     —The Wire

    “A beautiful, funny, fascinating book, covering a transformative time in Thompson’s life, as he puts together Fairport Convention and a new approach to English folk music." 
     —Ed Park, author of Personal Days

On Sale
Apr 6, 2021
Page Count
304 pages
Algonquin Books

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

About the Author

Richard Thompson's widely beloved early work within the band Fairport Convention revived British folk traditions, and his duet albums and performances with Linda Thompson are legendary. His songs have been covered by Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and R.E.M., among others. He continues to write and perform, and to tour widely. He lives in New Jersey.

Learn more about this author