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No More Sad Refrains: The Life and Times of Sandy Denny Hardcover – 7 Aug 1999
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"If you are at all interested in Sandy you must read this book; then go back and read it again." Chris Woods -- Greenman Review, June 2000
From the Publisher
Gripping biog of the best English female singer-songwriter
Clinton Heylin's biography (details listed above were initially incorrect and will shortly be corrected) No More Sad Refrains, draws on hours of fresh interviews with Sandy's closest friends and musical collaborators, access to her diaries and unreleased work, to produce a moving portrait of a complex, driven, but fatally flawed genius, who remains the finest female singer-songwriter this country has ever produced. "My favourite singer out of all the British girls that ever were." Robert Plant
Top customer reviews
Denny's most famous song is "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?", and somehow it's taken over two decades for the unvarnished story of her life and death to come out. Clinton Heylin's biography is no hagiography; Sandy Denny was no saint. Most of her fans will be surprised to learn that she was a heavy drinker, and terribly insecure. Heylin blames many of those around her for making her insecurity even worse. He brands her adored but roving husband Trevor Lucas (who died in 1989) "a mediocre musician" who badgered Denny into writing more songs, then dismissed them as sounding too much the same. He blames Denny's early producer, Joe Boyd, for pulling the plug on Fotheringay half way through recording their second album, forcing her unwillingly to go solo. ("Solo" is one of her most ironic songs, as much about broken love as about singing.)
Heylin's book, which includes photographs, some of Denny's drawings, pages from her diaries, and unrecorded and draft lyrics, is a sharp-edged record of her personal and professional frustrations and missed opportunities. It's sad to read of so much sadness, especially considering, as one of her friends said, "When you listen to her voice you think, God, what did she have to be insecure about?" And Heylin ends by quoting another great Fairport alumnus, Richard Thompson: "I've not heard a singer since with that much of a gift... Sandy's songs [are] some of the best songs written since the war." -David V Barrett
This book acquaints you with the woman behind the voice. As the author says, "Solo the voice could now be heard in all its resonating purity, driven by an unerring instinct, but the secret Sandy remained a deeply unhappy person, for whom the songs remained her only release."
There are lots of touching anecdotes, like the time Sandy invited her friend Bambi Ballard to a studio at one in the morning to play the songs of the album "Sandy." After each song the insecure Sandy asked "You don't want to hear any more, do you?" Bambi Ballard, the sole audience, with tears running down her face had to reassure her that each song was lovely and to urge her to play another.
The book also corrects the notion that Sandy fell as a result of falling downstairs - and helps to explain why the some of the facts were played down.
In short if you like Sandy Denny's music, this book is a "must" and is extremely readable.
But... and it's a pretty big but...
It is a sloppily, lazily written book with a good number of trite clichés, huge assumptions and unforgivable spelling errors ("Cropredy" is misspelled at least twice) which really should have no place in a work such as this. It also has page after page of subjective interpretation of Denny's lyrics in an attempt to wring out of them some insight into her thoughts and feelings. And of the 288 pages, 32 are taken up with redundant lists of Denny's output.
That the book remains readable is a testament to the compelling circumstances of Denny's brief life, rather than to Heylin's abilities as a writer. As a biography, it'll have to do for the time being but the definitive account of Sandy Denny remains unwritten.