Lesley Duncan

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Lesley Duncan
Also known asLesley Cox
Born(1943-08-12)12 August 1943
Stockton-on-Tees, England
Died12 March 2010(2010-03-12) (aged 66)
Isle of Mull, Scotland
LabelsEMI, Columbia

Lesley Cox[1] (née Duncan; 12 August 1943 – 12 March 2010)[2] was an English singer-songwriter, best known for her work during the 1970s. She received much airplay on British radio stations such as BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2, but never achieved great commercial success, in part because of her unwillingness to chase stardom, as well as crippling stage fright.[3]

Early life[edit]

Duncan was born in Stockton-on-Tees on 12 August 1943, and left school while only 14 years old. At 19, while working in a London coffee bar, she and her brother were placed on weekly retainers by a music publisher. Within a year Duncan had signed her first recording contract, with EMI, and appeared in the film What a Crazy World.[2]

"Love Song"[edit]

Considered one of Britain's first female singer-songwriters,[3] her songs included "Everything Changes" and "Sing Children Sing", and the song for which she is best known, "Love Song". Elton John recorded a duet with Duncan of the song, similar to her solo version, for his album Tumbleweed Connection. She appeared onstage with John in concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 May 1974, to perform the duet once again,[4] and the live recording of "Love Song" was included on John's Here and There album. John described "Love Song" as "one of the very few" songs he did not co-author but included on an album earlier in his career.[5] Duncan's "Love Song" went on to be covered by more than 150 other artists, including David Bowie.[6] In 2022, both Duncan and John’s versions of the song were featured in the folk horror film Men. This success notwithstanding, and despite their receiving critical acclaim, Duncan's multiple solo albums failed to achieve commercial success.[2]

Backing vocalist[edit]

In addition to writing and singing her own material, Duncan was in wide demand as a session singer in the mid to late 1960s, most notably working with Dusty Springfield from 1964 to 1972, a favour Springfield returned by performing backing vocals for several Duncan recordings.[2] Duncan can be seen on many of the performances featured in the BBC DVD Dusty at the BBC. She worked frequently with her colleague Madeline Bell, including on many Dusty Springfield sessions, as well as providing backing vocals on a number of notable pop/rock recordings such as the 1969 Donovan hit single "Barabajagal".

Duncan again joined Elton John at his request to provide vocals for his 1971 album Madman Across the Water, and in exchange John played piano on her first solo album Sing Children Sing.[5] She also co-wrote three songs with Scott Walker for The Walker Brothers in addition to providing backing vocals for them. She can also be heard on the studio recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.[7]

Duncan famously contributed backing vocals to one of the top selling albums of all time,[8] Pink Floyd's 1973 release The Dark Side of the Moon, which was engineered by Alan Parsons. Later, in 1979, she again worked with Parsons, singing lead vocals on the song "If I Could Change Your Mind" for the Alan Parsons Project album Eve, in her final album appearance.[3]

Later life[edit]

In 1978 Duncan married the record producer Tony Cox and they moved to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, in 1996, where most residents came to know her as a cheerful gardener and knew nothing of her previous life in the music industry.[5] By all accounts content to lead a more private, family-oriented life in her later years, she died on 12 March 2010 of cerebrovascular disease,[3] following an extended illness.[1]

UK singles[edit]

  • "I Want a Steady Guy" (as 'Lesley Duncan and the Jokers') b/w "Moving Away" (1963) – Parlophone R5034
  • "You Kissed Me Boy" b/w "Tell Me" (1963) – Parlophone R5106
  • "When My Baby Cries" b/w "Did It Hurt" (1963) – Mercury MF830
  • "Just for the Boy" b/w "See That Guy" (1965) – Mercury MF847
  • "Run to Love" b/w "Only the Lonely and Me" (1965) – Mercury MF876
  • "Hey Boy" b/w "I Go to Sleep" (1966) – Mercury MF939
  • "Lullaby" b/w "I Love You, I Love You" (1968) – RCA 1746
  • "A Road to Nowhere" b/w "Love Song" (1969) – RCA 1783
  • "Sing Children Sing" b/w "Exactly Who You Are" (1969) – CBS 4585
  • "Love Song" b/w "Exactly Who You Are" (1970) – Columbia 4-45354
  • "Sing Children Sing" b/w "Emma" (1971) – CBS S 7493
  • "Earth Mother" b/w "Love Will Never Lose You" (1972) – CBS S 8362
  • "Watch the Tears" b/w "Sam" (1974) – GM GMS 016
  • "Everything Changes" b/w "Love Melts Away" (1974) – GM GMS 022
  • "I Can See Where I'm Going" b/w "Heaven Knows" (1975) – GM GMS 036
  • "Could've Been a Winner" b/w "Moonbathing" (1975) – GM GMS 9040
  • "Maybe It's Lost" b/w "Another Rainy Day" (1977) – GM GMS 9046
  • "The Sky's on Fire" b/w "Don't Worry 'Bout It" (1977) – GM GMS 9048
  • "The Magic's Fine" b/w "Paper Highways" (1978) – GM GMS 9049
  • "Sing Children Sing" b/w "Rainbow Games" (1979) – CBS S8061 (Charity 45)
  • "Masters of War" b/w "Another Light Goes Out" (1982) – Korova KOW 22
  • "Tomorrow" b/w "Paper Highway" (1986) – R4 FOR 4

Albums[edit]

  • Sing Children Sing (1971)
  • Earth Mother (1972)
  • Everything Changes (1974)
  • Moon Bathing (1975)
  • Maybe It's Lost (1977)

Compilations[edit]

  • Sing Lesley Sing: The RCA and CBS Recordings 1968–1972 (2017) – first two albums and bonus tracks
  • Love Song: Previously Unreleased 1977–86 (2018)
  • Lesley Step Lightly: The GM Recordings Plus 1974–1982 (2019) – last three albums and bonus tracks

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Famous musicians pay tribute to singer". BBC News. 20 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Barrett, David (23 March 2010). "Lesley Duncan obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Lesley Duncan: singer and songwriter". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  4. ^ Rocket man: Elton John from A-Z, Claude Bernardin, Tom Stanton, Greenwood, ISBN 978-0-275-95698-1
  5. ^ a b c "Elton and Bowie mourn Mull's secret pop star". The Scotsman. 19 March 2010.
  6. ^ Stanley, Richard (12 April 2010). "Lesley Duncan: Singer and songwriter who worked with Elton John and Pink Floyd". The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Lesley Duncan | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  8. ^ Beech, Mark (27 September 2011). "Pink Floyd Money Machine Leads Elvis, Nirvana, U2 in CD Battle". London: Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 31 December 2011.

External links[edit]