Entertainment & Arts

Fairport Convention's Dave Swarbrick dies aged 75

Dave Swarbrick
Image caption 'Swarb' played with British folk greats such as Sandy Denny, Ewan MacColl and Bert Jansch

Musician Dave Swarbrick, best known for his work with influential folk group Fairport Convention, has died at the age of 75.

Known as "Swarb", the musician performed mainly on the violin and wrote many of the group's songs.

The band posted a tribute on their website which said Swarbrick "had been seriously ill for some time".

He had struggled with health problems after being diagnosed with emphysema in the 1990s.

Blur guitarist Graham Coxon was one of a number of musicians to pay tribute to Swarbrick, tweeting early footage of him playing mandolin with Martin Carthy with the message: "Very sad... Bye, Dave and thanks!"

Poets Michael Rosen and Ian McMillan also both shared their thoughts about Swarbrick, with Rosen calling him a "fiddler supreme" and McMillan recalling how "his playing on Fairport Convention's Sloth broke my heart every time".

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Born in London in 1941, Swarbrick played on recordings with folk pioneers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger before coming to prominence as a guest on Fairport Convention's classic 1969 album Unhalfbricking.

He went on to become a permanent member of the band, writing and arranging songs for their albums - including on the influential electric folk album Liege & Lief - and performing with them up until they disbanded in 1979.

He also recorded his own solo albums, as well as working with the likes of Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch and fellow Fairport alumni Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson.

In 1999, the Daily Telegraph wrongly reported Swarbrick's passing and published an obituary after he was spotted going into hospital. He would later print off copies, sign them and take them to gigs to sell to fans.

He spoke to BBC Radio 4 about the mistake in February, saying he was "happy" about what was written about him, "because far from damaging my career, it had enhanced it somewhat".

Image copyright Evening Standard/Getty
Image caption Musician and comedian Mike Harding called him "the best English fiddler of his generation"

He later underwent three tracheotomies and sometimes had to perform with an oxygen canister on stage to help with his breathing.

Following a double lung transplant in 2004, he continued to tour and produce music, winning a BBC Folk Award for his 2006 collaboration with Carthy, Straws in the Wind.

Referring to his health problems, John Spiers of folk supergroup Bellowhead said Swarbrick had "deserved the extra lungs because he had more heart than anyone else", while writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce shared a story of seeing him play with his oxygen mask.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Other tributes came from folk guitarist John Smith, who shared an anecdote about Swarbrick's reaction to fellow musician John Martyn's leg amputation, and musician and comedian Mike Harding, who called Swarbrick "the best English fiddler of his generation".

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Swarbrick is survived by his wife, Jill.

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites