Dave Swarbrick, R.I.P. - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Dave Swarbrick, R.I.P.

British fiddle player Dave Swarbrick, best known for his association with Fairport Convention, has died after a lengthy battle with emphysema. He was 75.

All things considered, Swarbrick was much more than a fiddle player. He played the violin, viola, mandolin, mandola and guitar. While little known in North America, Swarbrick along with his Fairport Convention cohorts were major stars in the U.K.

Fairport Convention was originally a folk-rock band in the mold of groups like The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane. But the band would become the foremost interpreter of traditional British folk songs and Swarbrick was instrumental in this transition as a session player on their 1969 album Unhalfbricking. Later that year, Swarbrick would become a full member of the band with the release of the landmark Liege & Lief album. To give you a sense of what he brought to Fairport Convention, have a listen to these two tracks from Liege & Lief. The first is called “Tam Lin”, a traditional Scottish ballad which dates back to the mid-16th Century which Swarbrick arranged. Sandy Denny’s voice never sounded finer and Richard Thompson plays some very powerful guitar licks.

The second song is called “Matty Groves”, a 17th Century English folk ballad that features a villain by the name of Lord Donald. Hmmmn. In any case, about 4½ minutes into the song begins a long instrumental fadeout featuring Swarbrick on electric violin.

When Swarbrick wasn’t playing with Fairport Convention, he recorded his own solo albums and was in demand as a session player. Unfortunately, over the past two decades, Swarbrick has been plagued by health problems. In fact, it was reported that he had died in 1999. However, he took it in good humor. At his first public appearance after the faux obit, Swarbrick declared, “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.” Despite his health problems, which eventually resulted in a double lung transplant, Swarbrick continued to record and perform. No doubt it was the music that kept Dave Swarbrick alive all these years.

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