Maddy Prior

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Maddy Prior
Peter Knight and Maddy Prior at Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2006.
Background information
Birth nameMadelaine Edith Prior
Born (1947-08-14) 14 August 1947 (age 75)
OriginBlackpool, Lancashire, England
GenresBritish folk rock, folk
Occupation(s)Singer, dancer
Instrument(s)Vocals, percussion
Years active1967–present

Madelaine Edith Prior MBE (born 14 August 1947) is an English folk singer, best known as the lead vocalist of Steeleye Span.[1] She was born in Blackpool and moved to St Albans in her teens. Her father, Allan Prior, was co-creator of the police drama Z-Cars. She was married to Steeleye bass guitarist Rick Kemp, and their daughter, Rose Kemp, is also a singer. Their son, Alex Kemp, is, like his father, a guitarist and has deputised for his father playing bass guitar for Steeleye Span. She was part of the singing duo 'Mac & Maddy', with Mac MacLeod. She then performed with Tim Hart and recorded two albums with him, before they helped to found the group Steeleye Span, in 1969. She left Steeleye Span in 1997, but returned in 2002, and has toured with them since. With June Tabor she was the singing duo Silly Sisters. She toured with the Carnival Band, in 2007, and with Giles Lewin and Hannah James, in 2012 and 2013. She has released singles and albums as a solo artist, with these bands and in several collaborations. She runs an Arts Centre called Stones Barn, in Bewcastle, in Cumbria, which offers residential courses.

Early life[edit]

Born in Blackpool, Prior moved in her teens to St Albans, where she befriended the young Donovan Leitch and Mac MacLeod in The Cock pub. She later formed a duo with MacLeod called 'Mac & Maddy'. She became a roadie for visiting American musicians, including Reverend Gary Davis. They gave her useful advice about singing English folk songs instead of American songs. Her father, Allan Prior, was co-creator of the police drama Z-Cars, and wrote Stookie, a 6-part series for television, about a boy with his arm in a sling. Maddy sang the title song, which was released as a single in 1985. It reappeared on the Steeleye Span album A Rare Collection 1972 – 1996.

Singing career[edit]

After a brief stint with Mac MacLeod in 'Mac & Maddy' (another act formed at The Cock pub), by 1966 she began performing with Tim Hart, another St Albans resident, and together they recorded two albums before becoming founding members of Steeleye Span in 1969.[2] They were the backbone of the group until the early 1980s when ill-health forced Hart into semi-retirement. Prior plays the tambourine, spoons and ukulele, and always gives a sprightly performance of her individual dances. In 1974 Ralph McTell wrote "Maddy Dances" in her honour, included on his album Easy.

Prior married bassist Rick Kemp, though they have since divorced. The singer Rose Kemp is their daughter.

Prior has recorded session work, albums of her own songs and eclectic styles from medieval (with The Carnival Band), through British folk rock — Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior appeared on television with a regular BBC 4 programme Electric Folk[3]prog-rock and traditional songs, including session work on Mike Oldfield's Incantations. She left Steeleye Span in 1997 but returned in 2002. The 1999 album The Journey was recorded in 1995, when Maddy was still in the band, but not released until four years later. She was also one half of the duo Silly Sisters, which helped to boost June Tabor's career.

Since 2003 Prior has run and hosted an Arts Centre called Stones Barn in Cumbria. Working with fellow singers and performers like Abbie Lathe and daughter Rose Kemp, Prior has offered residential courses focusing on singing, meditation, cookery and performance. Other events, hosted by other teachers, include classical Indian dances, painting and drumming. Prior campaigns on behalf of the charity Cancer Research UK.

In 1983, Maddy became the namesake for Madelyne Pryor of the X-Men, created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith. The band was directly referenced five years after Pryor's first appearance in the comics in Uncanny X-Men #238 with Pryor's child self singing a line from "Gone to America", one of Steeleye Span's biggest hits. Claremont had previously named a one-shot character "Maddy Pryor" in Avengers Annual #10 (1981).

Recent tours and albums[edit]

Maddy Prior took to the road with The Carnival Band in May 2007 for their "Music for Tavern and Chapel" tour. They celebrated the 300th anniversary of one of the key influences on their work, Charles Wesley. She made a guest appearance with The Levellers at the Solfest Festival in Cumbria in August 2007. On recent albums Troy Donockley has been a co-producer.

In December 2007 the album Ringing The Changes was issued. It is a collection of songs written by the band. In 2008 Maddy Prior appeared at the BBC's "Electric Proms".[4] Steeleye Span toured the Eastern US, Australia and the UK beginning in 2009.

With Giles Lewin and Hannah James, Prior completed two successful UK tours, in the spring and autumn of 2012, with a third, in autumn 2013.

In November and December 2013 Prior toured with Steeleye Span, on the Wintersmith Tour, following the release in October of their album Wintersmith, a collaborative project based on the novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett.

A short tour with The Carnival Band in November and December, featuring carols and seasonal music, has become a regular fixture for Prior in recent years.[when?]


In 2001 Maddy Prior was awarded the MBE for services to folk music.[5] In 2014 she received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Cumbria.[6]


With Steeleye Span[edit]

Prior was on all the Steeleye Span albums from Hark! The Village Wait (1970) to Time (1996). She then returned for Present – The Very Best of Steeleye Span (2002) and subsequent albums.

Solo albums[edit]


Tim Hart and Maddy Prior[edit]

Maddy Prior and June Tabor[edit]

Maddy Prior, John Kirkpatrick and Sydney Carter[edit]

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band[edit]

Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy[edit]

  • Beat the Retreat (1994) Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy perform two songs, "Farewell, Farewell", and "The Great Valerio" on this Richard Thompson tribute album.

Maddy Prior, Giles Lewin and Hannah James[edit]

  • 3 for Joy (2012)
  • Shortwinger (2017)

Maddy Prior singles[edit]

  • "Rollercoaster" / "I Told You So" (1978)
  • "Baggy Pants" / "Woman in the Wings" (1978)
  • "Just the Two of Us" / "Acappella Stella" (1979)
  • "Wake up England" / "Paradise" (1980)
  • "The King" / "Ringing Down the Years" (1980) (with Dave Cousins/Strawbs)
  • "To Face" / "Half Listening" (1982)
  • "Deep in the Darkest Night" / "Western Movies" (1983)
  • "Stookie" / "Incidental Music From "Stookie"" (1985)
  • "Happy Families" / "Who's Sorry Now?" (1990)
  • "I Saw Three Ships" / "Quem Pastores" / "Monsieur Charpentier's Christmas Swing" (1991) (with the Carnival Band)
  • "I Saw Three Ships (Dance Doctor's Christmas Re-Mix)" / "The Boar's Head" / "Poor Little Jesus" (1992)
  • "All Around My Hat" (1996) (with Status Quo), No 47
  • "Forgiveness" (2000) (with Jennifer Cutting All-Stars)
  • "Gaudete" / "Greenwood Side" / "Gaudete (extended mix)" (2001) (with Keltic Fusion; Maddy's voice is sampled)
  • "Stuff" (2007) (with the Carnival Band and Terry Jones)
  • "Secret Garden" (2007) Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring, produced and composed by Alan Simon


  • Ballads and Candles (2004)
  • An Evening of Carols and Capers (2005)
  • Looking For a Grail Legend (2007) (documentary)

As a session or guest singer[edit]

She appeared on these albums:



  1. ^ The Times, 28 January 2000; interview with Maddy Prior
  2. ^ Nickson, Chris. "Biography: Maddy Prior". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Steeleye Span - Electric Folk (BBC Four) 1974". YouTube. 16 March 2013. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Electric Proms 2008 - Artists - Maddy Prior". BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  5. ^ Martin Chilton (7 January 2011). "Maddy Prior: Vaughan Williams, Carols, Songs & Hymns: CD Review". The Daily Telegraph. image 2 of 2. Archived from the original on 20 January 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  6. ^ "University of Cumbria Honorary Fellows 2014". 8 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2016.

External links[edit]