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Relf in 1966
|Birth name||William Keith Relf|
22 March 1943|
|Died||14 May 1976
|Genres||Blues, blues-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, hard rock|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, musician, record producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, harmonica, guitar, bongos, bass guitar, keyboards|
Keith Relf (22 March 1943 – 14 May 1976) was a musician best known as the lead singer and harmonica player of The Yardbirds.
Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Despite his suffering from respiratory problems, his strident blues harp and distinctive lead vocals were a key part of the Yardbirds' sound and success, notably his vocal styling which, despite an overall limited range nevertheless could be sincere ('For Your Love'), sneering ('Rack My Mind'), heartrendingly poignant ('Still I'm Sad'), assertive ('What Do You Want', 'Smokestack Lightning') or reflective ('Turn into Earth', 'Farewell'), Relf's vocals were as important to The Yardbirds sound as their three famed guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, and along with Paul Samwell-Smith, Chris Dreja, and Jim McCarty. Relf was the overall central core of the group.
Relf co-wrote many of The Yardbirds original songs ("Shapes of Things", "I Ain't Done Wrong", "Over Under Sideways Down", "Happening Ten Years Time Ago"), later showing a leaning towards acoustic flavoured folk music as the sixties unfolded ("Only the Black Rose"). He also sang an early version of "Dazed and Confused" in live Yardbirds concerts, a song later recorded by Yardbirds successor group Led Zeppelin. Though he wasn't a prolific guitarist in the Yardbirds, as those duties were covered by their various guitarists, he did occasionally overdub a guitar part. This most famous guitar part with the Yardbirds is the acoustic guitar on "Heart Full of Soul".
After the Yardbirds broke up Relf formed the acoustic duo Together, with fellow Yardbird Jim McCarty, followed by Renaissance, which also featured his sister, singer Jane Relf, then hard rock group Armageddon. Relf also produced tracks for artists such as folk-rock band Hunter Muskett, the acoustic world music group Amber, psychedelic band Saturnalia and blues-rock band Medicine Head, with whom he played bass guitar.
Personal life and death
In 1966, he married April Liversidge. They had two sons, Danny and Jason.
Relf was 33 when he died from electrocution, at his home, while playing his improperly earthed (i.e., grounded) guitar. At the time, Relf was rehearsing new material for the regrouping of the original Renaissance line-up, called Illusion.
Relf's posthumous 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with the Yardbirds was represented by his widow April, and son Danny.
Solo singles discography
Most of Relf's recordings were released under the name of the group he was in at the time. However, an early attempt was made to establish him as a solo artist and two singles came out under his own name in 1966.
- "Shapes In My Mind" / "Blue Sands" – UK Columbia DB8084 / US Epic 10110 – November 1966
A further single appeared in 1989:
- "Together Now" / "All The Fallen Angels" – MCCM 89 002 – 1989
- US release only. The A-side was recorded in 1968, originally recorded that same year by Together. The B-side was recorded on 2 May 1976, 12 days before Relf's death
- The Yardbirds official website
- Alex Gitlin's Armageddon page
- Alex Gitlin's Illusion page
- Keith Relf web page