Richard Thompson was born in West London, surrounded by a family with wide musical tastes. Counted among his early influences are Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Les Paul, and Jimmy Shand.
Flip the coin from his father’s jazz record collection to the early rock and roll music made available to him through his elder sister, including Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire, and the eclectic diversity of his multi-generational career becomes clear.
All those influences will be on the stage July 6-8 at Vancouver Island MusicFest at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.
Many musicians peak by age 30, but not Richard
Thompson. The recipient of BBC’s Lifetime
Achievement Award and named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed songwriters. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, David Byrne, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded his work.
Yet this may be the most prolific period of Thompson’s astonishing career; his live-tour CD Dream Attic was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Folk Album.
In 2010 Thompson was curator at London’s prestigious 2010 Meltdown Festival at South Bank Centre, and for his service to music was named on the Queen’s 2011 New Year Honours List as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 2011 Thompson received an Honorary Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa (DHC) from the University at Aberdeen for his exceptional and distinctive contribution to contemporary music .
From his teenage years as a founding member of the pioneering British band Fairport Convention, through the enduring partnership of folk-rock duo Richard and Linda Thompson, to over 25 years as a solo artist – Thompson’s massive body of work includes 40 albums and numerous film soundtracks (including Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man).
He has earned many of the industry’s most coveted awards including the Mojo Les Paul Award, the Orville H Gibson Award (guitar) and an Ivor Novello Award (songwriting). His genre-defying mastery of both acoustic and electric guitar, along with his dizzying energy and onstage wit continue to earn him generations of new fans and a place as one of the most distinctive and iconoclastic virtuosos in rock history.
What keeps him going?
“It’s just a drive…you’re driven to do it,” Thompson said. “If you’re not driven, maybe you shouldn’t bother. If you haven’t written a song for a couple of weeks, you get itchy…you start twitching. You have to get it out there, whatever it is.
“I’ve been twitching for 40 years, which is great. It’s wonderful to still be enthusiastic about what is basically one’s employment, and to have been that way all the way through. I still guiltily look over my shoulder sometimes, thinking, ‘This is too much fun.'”
“It’s kind of like you’re canoeing down a river and you want to see what is around the next bend. The future, the stuff you haven’t created yet, is very exciting,” Thompson said in a recent interview. “I think you have to be driven to sustain a musical career; there has to be something — I don’t know what it is and I’m not particularly interested in finding out — it might be something horrible, maybe some demons in your closet or some social unbalance that drives you forward.”
For four decades, Richard Thompson has consistently set songwriting and performance standards to which others aspire. He has long been acknowledged as both a sensitive writer and an innovative guitarist.
– Vancouver Island MusicFest