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On Roy Harper

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And the town label makers stare down with their gallery eyes
And point with computer stained fingers each time you arise
To the rules and the codes and the system that keeps them in chains
Which is where they belong with no poems no love and no brains 

- from McGoohan's Blues

Roy is, for me, among the most singular poets of this or any age, someone whose songs and messages have been with me, through all emotions, for more years than I care to remember. 

Welcome back, Roy; hopefully you've got many years of creativity still ahead; after all, my other great musical hero, Leonard Cohen, is still going strong beyond 80.  Indeed, great to see one true genius recognising another.  In "Uncut", Roy chose his 10 favourite albums. Under the sub-heading "The Perfect Record for a Mid-Life Crisis", he picked Lenny's "I'm Your Man" and had this to say about it: "What a great record - and what a crisis I had.  Cohen is the best songwriter of them all. I don't think I'm overstating that.  He has the spirit and is a man who cares about his poetry more than any other songwriter that I know."

Roy was honoured by Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis at the 2013 BB Folk Awards. Great to see this truly unique talent finally getting some of the five-star plaudits he has long deserved. Roy's latest (hopefully not last) concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London in October 2013 did not disappoint. Roy followed this up with a session on 6 Music.

After a three-year hiatus, for unfortunate reasons well documented elsewhere, Roy returned in triumph to the Royal Festival Hall in September 2016.

In February 2012 I was privileged to catch Richard Grayson's intriguing Magpie Index at the friendly and inspiring Matt's Gallery.

 

We were among the privileged 2500 or so watching Roy belatedly celebrate his 70th birthday in a special concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 5th November 2011.  A marvellous event, with Roy on top form, as were his special guests, his son Nick Harper, Joanna Newsom and Jimmy Page.  A sublime evening for us...a view shared by the critics, see e.g. Evening Standard and Telegraph 5-star reviews.

 

Prior to this event, I saw Roy perform most recently in Brussels on my birthday, 14th May 2010.  Down the years I have seen him perform so many times and followed his work and life far more closely than most people I know personally.  Roy's is a truly unique poetic talent, for our time and probably for many ages to come.

Roy Harper in Brussels 14.05.10

For all his creative passion, Roy remains wonderfully pastoral, as this December 2010 photo, taken 50 yards from his house in Ireland, testifies...

Roy Harper 50 yards from house 24.12.10

So Roy seems happy in Ireland now - and we're happy for him - but where are the other contemporary poets who can evoke the essence of England like this....

And we dreamt of all the loves we'd known
And we never never thought of the sorrow
With forelocks wound on the primrose down
In the wood by the empty long barrow

- from Commune, Roy Harper

 

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