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Linda Thompson (singer)

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Linda Thompson
Birth nameLinda Pettifer
Also known asLinda Peters
Born (1947-08-23) 23 August 1947 (age 76)
Hackney, London, England
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
Years active1966–present
Formerly of
  • (m. 1972; div. 1982)
  • Steve Kenis
    (m. 1985)
FamilyTeddy Thompson (son)
Kamila Thompson (daughter)
Zak Hobbs (grandson)

Linda Thompson (née Pettifer, born 23 August 1947) is an English singer-songwriter.

Thompson is one of the most recognised names and voices in the British folk rock movement of the 1970s and 1980s, in collaboration with fellow British folk rock musician, guitarist Richard Thompson, to whom she was married for ten years, and later as a solo artist.


Early years[edit]

Born in Hackney, London,[2] she moved with her family to her mother's home city of Glasgow, Scotland, at the age of six.[3] Actor Brian Pettifer (born 1953) is her brother. Around 1966 she started singing in folk clubs, and in 1967 began studying modern languages at the University of London, but dropped out after four months. She changed her name to Linda Peters. By day she sang advertising jingles, including one with Manfred Mann. She recorded the Bob Dylan song "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", released as an MGM single in 1968 by Paul McNeill and Linda Peters, McNeill being another friend of Sandy Denny and Alex Campbell. They released a second single as Paul and Linda in 1969 on Page One, featuring the John D. Loudermilk song "You're Taking My Bag". She met Richard Thompson in 1969, but they did not record together until 1972.[citation needed]

Her reputation led to her being invited to join the Bunch, a loose supergroup of folk rock artists including former Fairport Convention members Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, and Ashley Hutchings which recorded an album called Rock On. This was a set of 1950s rock and roll classics. A single was released from the album: The Everly Brothers' hit "When Will I Be Loved", which was a duet by Linda and Sandy. A second single was released soon afterwards "The Loco-Motion", sung by Linda alone. Two versions exist, one with "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller" as the B-side and in a picture sleeve, another with "Don't Be Cruel" on the flip. Later in 1972 Linda and Richard were backing singers on Sandy Denny's solo album Sandy.

Linda teamed up with Simon Nicol and Richard (after he had left Fairport Convention). Calling themselves "Hokey Pokey", they toured as a trio. Linda and Richard married in 1972. Linda sang on Fairport's album Rosie (1973), credited as Linda Peters.

The next album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974) was credited to "Richard and Linda Thompson". Two albums followed in 1975: Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver. Richard had started to take an interest in Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, in 1973. After the tour, the couple went to a Sufi commune in East Anglia for six months, then to another in Maida Vale. Richard announced that he would never play again, but returned after three years. Linda found herself in a community where all the food was prepared by the women. In her words, the members were "white middle-class people trying to punish themselves, and everybody else. It taught me a lot. To stay away from sects, mostly."[4]

Lights on and off again[edit]

Their come-back album was called First Light (1978). Richard's writing has a strong thread of disdain for fame, wealth and worldly values and attacks political hypocrisy, often in wildly abstract metaphors. Sunnyvista followed in 1979, and Shoot Out the Lights in 1982.

Shoot Out The Lights was surprisingly successful in America, and the Thompsons, despite the fractured state of their relationship, were offered a long and lucrative tour of the U.S. Simon Nicol described the final tour, in the summer of 1982, as being "like walking on a tightrope", and that as a result the first thing he did on stage was "look for the exit".[5] The couple had separated by the time that the American tour started,[6] and were barely speaking to each other.

The penultimate date of the tour was in Los Angeles. Linda then went to stay with her friend Linda Ronstadt. The tapes were finally released in October 2010 in the Shoot Out The Lights box set, although a version of "Walking on a Wire" from earlier in the tour is on the Free Reed RT boxed set. When Richard left Linda, she had just given birth to their third child, Kamila.

Linda alone[edit]

Linda lost her voice for the next two years as a result of spasmodic dysphonia. She made a new start in 1984, singing with "Home Service" at the National Theatre's production of The Mysteries and in 1985 she released her solo album One Clear Moment, then fell silent for eleven years. One song from the album, called "Telling Me Lies", written with Betsy Cook, was recorded by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt for their Trio album in 1987. The recording was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Country Song category. Linda retired from music to run an antique jewellery shop in Bond Street, central London. She married Steve Kenis, an American recording artists agent at William Morris.[7]

A compilation of Linda's earlier work, Dreams Fly Away (1996), included both previously released songs and alternate versions of some of her better-known songs. It was received politely but did not sell well. In 1999, Linda's mother died. This provoked an outpouring of sorrow and regenerated her determination to sing. Linda was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, preventing her from singing. A temporary cure was found. By having botox injected into her throat, she could regain her normal singing voice for a few months. Give Me a Sad Song (2001) was positively reviewed. In 2002, she released a new CD, Fashionably Late, which featured several family members, including her son Teddy Thompson and daughter Kamila Thompson, as well as an appearance on one song by Richard Thompson.[8]

Linda appeared along with her son Teddy, her friends The McGarrigles, and Kate McGarrigle's children Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright (amongst others) in Hal Wilner's "Came So Far For Beauty" tribute concerts to the music of Leonard Cohen from 2003 to 2006. Linda sang the Cohen songs "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and "Alexandra Leaving".[9] She appeared again with Teddy Thompson with The McGarrigles and Wainwrights for some of their family concerts, including the McGarrigle Christmas shows.[10] In 2007, Linda released yet another set of original songs and covers, Versatile Heart. Like Fashionably Late, this too was primarily a collaboration with son Teddy Thompson, and the CD also features a supporting cast of family and friends. The CD was well received in the press. The CD opens and closes with two arrangements of a Teddy Thompson instrumental piece, "Stay Bright", the first an acoustic version, and the second a version for string quartet arranged by famed Nick Drake collaborator Robert Kirby.[11] She contributed vocals to the Primal Scream album Beautiful Future (2008), on the track "Over & Over".[12]

Linda and Richard Thompson performed a duet at 12 June 2010 Meltdown Festival tribute concert to Kate McGarrigle, which Richard coordinated.[13][14][15]

Linda's fourth solo album, Won't Be Long Now, was released on 15 October 2013.[16] The album features compositions and backing vocals from Teddy Thompson and his sisters as well as guitar work by Richard Thompson.[16]

Linda appears on the album Family (2014) by the band Thompson (named for all the Thompsons that appear) having written two songs for the project. The album was produced by her son Teddy Thompson and features Richard Thompson and The Rails, who are Linda's daughter Kamila Thompson and her husband James Walbourne, as well as other related musicians, including Walbourne's brother and Richard Thompson's son from his second marriage.[17][18]

In July 2024, music from Proxy Music, an album of Thompson's music, will be performed at London's Cadogan Hall.[19]

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1970s, she began a relationship with the Richard Thompson and sang on his album Henry the Human Fly. In October 1972 the couple were married at Hampstead Town Hall.[20] As "Richard & Linda Thompson", the couple released six studio albums between 1974 and 1982.[citation needed] Their children include Teddy Thompson and Kamila Thompson. Richard and Linda Thompson separated in 1982.

In 2024 Richard Thompson's touring band for the album Ship to Shore included the Thompsons' grandson Zak Hobbs.[21]


Richard and Linda Thompson

Richard and Linda Thompson (live)

Solo albums

Other projects

  • Rock On – The Bunch (1972)
  • The Mysteries – Home Service/National Theatre (1985)
  • Family (2014)
  • Linda Thompson presents 'My Mother Doesn’t Know I’m On The Stage' (2018)

In 2009, No Telling from Fashionably Late was included in Topic Records' 70-year anniversary boxed set Three Score and Ten as track fifteen on the fifth CD.

Solo compilations

  • Dreams Fly Away (1996)
  • Give Me a Sad Song (2001)

Singles – Richard and Linda Thompson

  • "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" / "When I Get to the Border" (1974)
  • "Hokey Pokey" / "I'll Regret It in the Morning" (1975)
  • "Don't Let a Thief Steal into Your Heart" / "First Light" (1978)
  • "Georgie on a Spree" / "Civilisation" (1979)
  • "Don't Renege on Our Love" / "Living in Luxury" (1982)


  1. ^ "Folk-Rock Icon Linda Thompson Kenis Shares her SD Journey". Dysphonia.org. National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association. December 2020.
  2. ^ "Linda Thompson - Vinyl, CDs & Books". Roughtrade.com.
  3. ^ "The family ties that inspire Linda Thompson". HeraldScotland. 10 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Reviews of Linda Thompson | Dreams Fly Away (anthology), Richard Thompson | You? Me? Us?, and Tim Hardin | Simple Songs of Freedom: A Collection". Cdshakedown.com. 6 November 1996. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Linda Thompson Presents My Mother Doesn't Know I'm On Stage". rockandrollglobe.com. 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  6. ^ Cumming, Tim (9 July 2004). "Linda Thompson: Back in the bright lights". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Match made in hell: Linda Thompson and her husband created British". The Independent. 1 September 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  8. ^ Whitman, Andy (24 December 2002). "Linda Thompson – Fashionably Late". Paste. Paste Media Group. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ ""Came so far for Beauty" An Evening of Songs by Leonard Cohen Under the Stars, in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, June 28, 2003. Report by Thelma Blitz". Leonardcohenfiles.com. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  10. ^ Sinagra, Laura (23 December 2005). "An Extended Family Holiday Outing, Onstage". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Versatile Heart – Linda Thompson – Songs, Reviews, Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Primal Scream: Beautiful Future Album Review – Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  13. ^ Robin Denselow (14 June 2010). "A Celebration of Kate McGarrigle". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  14. ^ Holly Williams (16 June 2010). "A Celebration of Kate McGarrigle, Royal Festival Hall". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  15. ^ Honigmann, David (13 June 2010). "Meltdown, Southbank Centre, London". FT.com. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  16. ^ a b "Won't Be Long Now – Linda Thompson – Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  17. ^ Holland, Simon (1 December 2014). "Thompson – Family". Folk Radio UK. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  18. ^ Dominus, Susan (7 November 2014). "Teddy Thompson's Folk-Rock Family Reunion". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Proxy Music... | Cadogan Hall". cadoganhall.com.
  20. ^ "Richard Thompson: conventional wisdom". Camden New Journal. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  21. ^ Lord, Christopher (29 May 2024). "Richard Thompson review – a showcase for decades of exquisite craft". Music. The Guardian. ISSN 1756-3224. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  22. ^ "Official Albums Chart UK Top 100 – 26th October 2013". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013.
  23. ^ "Linda Thompson announces Proxy Music". Klofmag.com. 9 April 2024.

Further reading[edit]

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