Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny

Today is Sandy Denny’s 61st birthday. Well, she would have been 61 today. But this coming April will mark the thirtieth anniversary of her untimely death at age 31, from injuries sustained when she fell down a flight of stairs.

A British vocalist of singular elegance and beauty, Sandy sang with the Strawbs and, more famously, with Fairport Convention. But for those who are not familiar with British folk and progressive rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s, she is probably best known as the guest vocalist on the song “The Battle of Evermore” on Led Zeppelin’s “Zoso” album.

As lovely as her guest vox opposite Robert Plant may have been (and, yes, it was gorgeous), Sandy was at her best when singing either traditional tunes like “Tam Lin” or “Matty Groves” or her own compositions, such as “Listen, Listen,” “Fotheringay,” or her signature “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”

God bless Youtube, where so many videos of artists who are no longer with us have been archived. Here’s a glimpse of Sandy Denny (the technical quality is pretty marginal, but remember this is an archival recording from the 1970s):

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • phil foster

    I had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. Sandy took the place of Judy Dyble in Fairport. Judy had sung briefly with Giles, Giles and Fripp – a group which would include Ian McDonald while Judy was on board and evolve into one of my all time faves, King Crimson. Can we mention a band with a metaphorical name for the Devil on The Website of Unknowing?

  • Carl McColman

    It looks like you just did. :-)

    And since the website has not gone up in flames (literal or metaphorical), I rather think it’s okay.

  • Philip M Ward

    You’ll find a broadcast-quality version of the programme from which that clip was taken on Sandy Denny Live at the BBC, a boxset of her work released last year.