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Lesley Duncan

Born 12 August 1943, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, LESLEY DUNCAN can be filed under a few music genres, one certainly in the AOR/singer-songwriter camp, the other on the fringes of folk (she became something of a one-off, psych-folk cult figure in many circles – appearing on Various Artists compilations including `Gather In The Mushrooms’). Much in demand as a top session singer, Lesley has figured on many great albums by the likes of The DAVE CLARK FIVE, LONG JOHN BALDRY, DONOVAN, ELTON JOHN, PINK FLOYD, The ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, MICHAEL CHAPMAN, and others not as major.
However, groomed as a singles artist to rival DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, her formative 60s flops were nothing more than manufactured pop. Harsh, yes, but in comparison with the high standards she set in her early 70s singer-songwriter days, an honest appraisal. Bypassing the 60s, well nearly, DUNCAN was to sign another major record deal in 1969, when C.B.S. took her under their wing; she’d since married keyboard player Jimmy Horowitz, who was to produce her ones-that-got-away 45s `Sing Children Sing’ and `Love Song’. The latter beauty had already been covered by ELTON JOHN on his seminal `Tumbleweed Connection’ set before it finally surfaced on her own debut, SING CHILDREN SING (1971) {*6}.
Almost totally self-penned (three tracks were co-scribed with producer Horowitz), the melancholy but melodious record reached out to the lovelorn, bedsit-type college student in two minds about the exact use of a razorblade, but folky ballads that garnered attention (her vox a precursor to say, NATALIE MERCHANT) were the aforementioned flop singles plus `Rainbow Games’, `Sunshine (Send Them Away)’, `Emma’ and `Crying In The Sun’, the latter covered by Dusty herself. With a session band list to kill for, Elton, CHRIS SPEDDING, Terry Cox (of PENTANGLE), Tristian Fry and Ray Cooper among them, it was a wonder why the album wasn’t a hit. Maybe it was her crippling stage fright which plagued her career throughout.
EARTH MOTHER (1972) {*6} established her in the critical eye at least, an album that took several steps back into Brill Building pop, although a few tracks stretched her boundaries somewhat by way of the gospel-trad of `God Is Real’ and ANDY BOWN’s (a guest on the set) `If It’s All The Same To You’. DUNCAN virtually continued in the same vein on subsequent LPs EVERYTHING CHANGES (1974) {*6}, MOON BATHING (1975) {*6} and MAYBE IT’S LOST (1977) {*5}.
Out of the solo limelight for some time, having married Tony Cox, Lesley earned her crust as a session singer (1980 saw her featured on an album, `Exiled’ by the Bob Mitchell & Steve Coe Mysteries), while she still managed to perform the odd gig with ex-hubby Horowitz and SPEDDING. Sadly, and only just recently (12 March 2010), Lesley died of a cerebrovascular disease at her home in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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