Karl Dallas

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Karl Dallas
Born Karl Frederick Dallas
(1931-01-29)29 January 1931
London, England
Died 21 June 2016(2016-06-21) (aged 85)
Bradford, West Yorkshire
Nationality British
Occupation Journalist, musician, author, playwright, peace campaigner, record producer, broadcaster
Website www.karldallas.com

Karl Frederick Dallas (29 January 1931 – 21 June 2016)[1] was a British journalist, musician, author, playwright, peace campaigner, record producer, and broadcaster. He was described as "the most vigorous, influential, and informed folk music journalist in Britain".[2]


Early life[edit]

Dallas was brought up in a socialist household, was enrolled in the Independent Labour Party on the day of his birth, and was named after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.[3] He lived as a child in Whitley Bay, Northumberland,[4] and later attended Bec School in Tooting, London.[5] He started writing poetry, and writing and performing songs in London in his teens, using the name Fred Dallas.[2] His songs have been recorded by The Spinners (The Family of Man, written in 1955, after Dallas saw the exhibition of the same name[6]), Ewan MacColl, June Tabor and others.[5] He also contributed music reviews to the St Marylebone Record and Musical Opinion magazine.[7]

Journalism and public relations[edit]

In 1957 Dallas began working as a full-time reporter, later becoming a freelance writer on music – including pop, jazz, classical and folk music – and fashion.[5] Many of his articles were published in the Melody Maker; he also wrote for The Times, The Independent, and many magazines. He published his own magazines, including Folk Music, Folk News, and Jazz Music News,[8] and in 1967 wrote his first book, Swinging London: a guide to where the action is.[9] His other books included Singers of an Empty Day: last sacraments for the superstars (1972), The Cruel Wars: 100 soldiers' songs from Agincourt to Ulster (1972), One Hundred Songs of Toil: 450 Years of Workers' Songs (1974) and The Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock (with Dave Laing, Robin Denselow and Robert Shelton, 1975). For a time he ran his own public relations agency, with clients including Pan Books, Topic Records, and Billy Smart's Circus. He worked as a record producer for the Transatlantic, Island and Sonet labels, and as a concert promoter.[5] From the late 1970s he also wrote on information technology, and contributed articles to most British computer magazines.[10]

Later life[edit]

He was a lifelong atheist until converting to Christianity in 1983.[3] He moved with his wife to live in Bradford in 1989,[5] and retired from full-time journalism in 1999.[11] He became chairman of Bradford Community Health Council,[11] and, in 2003, travelled to Iraq in a double-decker bus as part of the group of campaigners intending to act as human shields in the event of invasion.[12][13] Following his return, he wrote Into the War Zone, which he described as a "musical tragicomedy" satirising his experiences as a human shield in Iraq. The play was performed by the Writers Company in Bradford in 2005.[14]

He wrote several other plays, including a seven-hour play on the life of Stalin,[5] as well as several books, including The Fourth Step, described as "a thriller of the international drugs trade",[5] and Good News for the Last Times (2010), a "prophetic vision for the 21st century" based on his religious experiences.[15] A book of his critical writings, The Lie That Tells The Truth, was published in 2012.[16] In later life he continued to broadcast regularly for Bradford Community Broadcasting, and reviews books, music and films for the Morning Star daily newspaper.[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died at the age of 85 on 21 June 2016, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer four months earlier.[11] His funeral was held in the parish church of St Paul in Manningham, Bradford on 30 June.[17] He was then buried at a woodland site in the city.[17]

Obituaries were published by The Guardian[18] and the Morning Star,[19] the latter including a fond reminiscence from Arlo Guthrie.[19]


  1. ^ Karl Dallas blog. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  2. ^ a b Colin Harper, Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012
  3. ^ a b Becky Barnicoat, Weekender: Karl Dallas, writer, 82, The Guardian, 27 April 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  4. ^ Karl Dallas: Autobiography at Rockopedia. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  5. ^ a b c d e f g About the author, The Fourth Step. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  6. ^ Dallas, Karl. "The Family of Man". Bandcamp. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Preface to The Lie That Tells The Truth. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  8. ^ Karl Dallas at Rock's Back Pages. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  9. ^ Swinging London at Worldcat.org. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  10. ^ a b Karl Dallas at Journalist Directory Freelance Database. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  11. ^ a b c Kathie Griffiths, "Bradford justice and peace campaigner Karl Dallas dies after fighting a final battle with cancer", Telegraph & Argus, 22 June 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016
  12. ^ BBC News, Pensioner's 'human shield' offer, 24 January 2003. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  13. ^ BBC News, Pensioner to become Iraq human shield, 17 February 2003. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  14. ^ BBC Bradford and West Yorkshire, Karl Dallas: "We must love one another", August 2005. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  15. ^ Good News for the Last Times at Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  16. ^ The Lie That Tells The Truth at Reality Now!. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  17. ^ a b "Friends and family remember activist musician and poet Karl Dallas". Morning Star. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Denselow, Robin (27 June 2016). "Karl Dallas obituary". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ a b "Karl Dallas". Morning Star. 30 June 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 

External links[edit]