Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention Dies
Dave Swarbrick, who played violin in the groundbreaking British folk-rock band Fairport Convention from 1969-79, died yesterday (June 3). He was 75.
According to the BBC, "Swarb," as he was known, was diagnosed with emphysema in the '90s and Reuters says that he underwent a double lung transplant in 2004. The news was announced on the band's website with the following message. "We have just had the sad news from Alex Swarbrick that his father, Dave Swarbrick, has passed away. Swarb, as you know, had been seriously ill for some time and, although he had showed recent signs of improvement, died in hospital this morning. Our thoughts right now are with his wife Jill and the Swarbrick family."
Born in 1941, Swarbrick had been a well-known presence in the '60s British folk scene for his work with Ian Campbell and Martin Carthy. Shortly before the death of drummer Martin Lamble in a bus crash, Fairport hired him to play on the 11-minute epic "A Sailor's Life" during the sessions for their brilliant 1969 album Unhalfbricking, and asked him to become a permanent member. "I felt very honored that Swarb came in," guitarist Simon Nicol said in Patrick Humphries' bio of Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson. "It lent folk authenticity."
With Swarbrick, combined with Sandy Denny's powerful, evocative vocals and Thompson's innovative guitar, Fairport Convention became the leading lights in Britain's folk revival, cutting the classic Liege & Lief, which mixed original compositions with electric arrangements of traditional British folk music, shortly after Unhalfbricking's release. But the perpetual instability of their lineup -- Denny left after Liege and Thompson split for a solo career after their next effort, 1970's Full House -- made it difficult for them to build on their success They disbanded in 1979, but reunited, without Swarbrick, in 1985.
Swarbrick remained active after leaving Fairport, forming Whippersnapper in the mid-'80s, doing session work, frequently sitting in with the reunited Fairport Convention at their annual Cropready Festival and maintaining a steady presence on the folk circuit when his health permitted.
In 1999, he was hospitalized while in Coventry, England, which caused the Telegraph to print a premature obituary. He treated it with a classic English wit, remarking, "It's not the first time I've died in Coventry," and selling autographed copies of the obits at his gigs.
He is survived by his wife, Jill, two daughters and a son.
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