Anne Patricia Briggs (born
29 September 1944), known as Anne Briggs, is an
English folk singer.
she travelled widely, in the 1960s and early 1970s, appearing at
folk clubs and venues in England and
Ireland, she never aspired to commercial success or to
achieve widespread public acknowledgement of her music.
However, she was a highly influential figure in the English folk
music revival, being a source of songs and musical inspiration for
others such as A.L. Lloyd
, Bert Jansch
, June Tabor
, Sandy Denny
Patricia Briggs was born in Toton, Beeston,
Nottinghamshire on 29 September
Her mother died of tuberculosis
when she was young, her father Albert was severely injured in WWII
and she was raised by her Aunt Hilda and Uncle Bill in Toton,
Nottinghamshire; they also brought up Hilda's youngest sister Beryl
as well as their own daughter Betty.
she cycled with a friend to Edinburgh. They stayed overnight with Archie Fisher, who was at that time prominent
in the revival of folk music in Scotland and, through
him, she met Bert Jansch, who had just
begun to compose his own songs.
Jansch and Briggs had an
instant rapport and were to remain influential on one another for
the Trades Union Congress
passed "Resolution 42", a resolution to devolve cultural activities
outside of London.
implement this resolution, playwright Arnold Wesker
was appointed as the leader,
with Ewan MacColl
and A.L. "Bert" Lloyd
heavily involved, also Charles
on production. Calling themselves "Centre 42", they
organised a tour around Britain, hoping to
involve local talent at each stop. At Nottingham MacColl heard Anne Briggs singing "Let No Man Steal
Your Thyme" and "She Moves
Through the Fair", and promptly invited her to perform on stage
She became a full member of the tour and
recorded the same two songs on an album recorded live in Edinburgh
later that year.
By this stage, Briggs had become somewhat remote from her aunt, and
decided to leave home, just four weeks short of her eighteenth
birthday. Centre 42 gave her an administrative job in their
offices, liaising with theatres
. She soon acquired the contacts she
needed to pursue her own musical career.
Beginnings of folk music career
Anne Briggs visited the main British folk
which were then becoming well-known: The Troubador
and various Irish music venues. At his time, the
emphasis at such venues was on instrumental folk music, and singing
was regarded as merely a pause between tunes. A young Christy Moore
heard her and was inspired to
give more emphasis, in his own music, to singing rather than
She became loosely associated with the Scottish folk musicians who
were sometimes regarded as part of the hippy
culture: Bert Jansch, The
Incredible String Band
, and Clive
, for example. Briggs and Jansch lived together in a
squat in Earl's Court before moving together to a house in Somali Road, London, where John Renbourn lived, and The Young Tradition also lived for a
Jansch and Briggs had some resemblance to each other
and were so naturally close that they were often mistaken for
brother and sister. It was Briggs who taught Jansch the traditional
" which he
recorded on his Jack Orion
Anne Briggs began her recording career by contributing two songs to
a thematic album, "The Iron Muse", released by Topic Records
in 1963.Ewan MacColl and Bert
Lloyd sang on the tracks, and Ray Fisher made a briefappearance
singing along with Briggs. An EP
Hazards of Love" was recorded in1963. It was an early inspiration
for both June Tabor
and Maddy Prior
At about this time, Anne Briggs entered a relationship with a
Scotsman who proved to be violent towards her. She was rescued from
this relationship by Hamish
who accidentally bumped into her and invited her to
join Louis Killen
and Frankie Armstrong
for a recording project.
This resulted in the album called "The Bird in The Bush" which is
still regarded as one of the best collections of traditional erotic
folksongs recorded in the 1960s.
touring England, The Dubliners met
Anne Briggs and decided that she would be the perfect musical
partner for a folk singer they knew in Dublin, called
Johnny Moynihan. In 1965 they
accompanied her to Ireland and for the
next four years she spent her summers there, travelling by
horse-drawn cart and singing in pub sessions.
winter months she earned money by touring English folk clubs. Her
time in Ireland introduced her to the solo Sean-nós singing
heard in the songs of
Irish folk artists, and this was an influence on her later singing
style, when blended with the elements of traditional English music
which she had already taken up.
She was notoriously wild at this time and there are many stories,
from this period, about her antics, such as pushing Johnny Moynihan
and Andy Irvine
out of a hay
loft and, on another occasion, jumping into the sea at Malin Head,
Donegal, to chase seals. In an episode of Folk Britannia (a
documentary history of UK folk music) aired in 2006 Richard Thompson
he only ever encountered Anne Briggs twice; and on both occasions
she was drunk and unconscious. Her attendance at bookings was so
erratic that it was said she turned up only 5 times between
mid-1963 and early 1965.
In 1966 Johnny Moynihan and Andy
formed Sweeney's Men
Briggs joined them on tours and learned to play the bouzouki
, at that time a rare instrument in the
British Isles. She wrote "Living by the Water", which was to appear
on her 1971 album, accompanying herself on the instrument.
The folk-rock impresario Jo Lustig
up Pentangle in 1968 and a couple of years later took on Anne
Briggs. Through his influence Anne performed along
with the folk-rock group COB at the Royal
Festival Hall in 1971.
In the same year, she recorded an album, "Anne Briggs", which was
released by Topic. It consisted mostly of Briggs singing
traditional unaccompanied songs, but Moynihan plays bouzouki on one
track. Later that same year, a second album, "The Time Has Come",
was released on CBS which finds Briggs moving away from the mainly
acapella style of her previous recordings, instead opting to flesh
out the songs (mostly written by Briggs) with acoustic guitar. The
album includes Moynihan's song, "Standing on the Shore", previously
recorded by Sweeney's Men. The BBC
a film of the Watersons in 1966 "Travelling for a Living" and Anne
had made a brief appearance in the film. Lal Waterson
joined Briggs as a vocalist on the
album. Sales of "The Time has Come" were, however, dismal, and it
was dropped from CBS's catalogue, finally being re-issued in
Early in 1973 she recorded a third solo album "Sing a Song For You"
with instrumental support from "Ragged
", who were a folk-rock band assembled around Steve Ashley
. She was pregnant at the time with
her second child. Her confidence was at its lowest ebb and it was
to be her final studio recording. By the time it was issued, Briggs was
living in the Hebrides.
The album sank without trace until Fledg'ling Records
re-issued it in 1996,
when it was acclaimed by folk music aficionados as a lost gem.She
became a market gardener and avoided all contact with the music
scene. When Bert Lloyd died in 1990 she was persuaded to sing in a
memorial concert. Despite coaxing from some of the brightest names
in British folk music, she refuses to return to the studio.
There was a TV documentary about Bert Jansch in 1993. Anne took
part in this and sang "Go Your Way My Love" as a duet with Bert for
the show. The recording later reppeared in the soundtrack "Acoustic
Routes" (1993) on Demon Records. On eBay the original 1960s
pressings of Anne Briggs records often fetch over 80 pounds.
There are several anecdotes and photographs of Anne Briggs in the
book "Dazzling Stranger" by Colin Harper (2001).
Anne Briggs' musical legacy is her significant influence on the
work of other musicians, rather than recognition by the general
public. Her earlier partner, Bert Jansch, who described her as "one
of the most underrated singers", recorded Briggs' songs (including
"Go your way, my love" and "Wishing well") on four of his albums.
She was also his source for several of the traditional songs which
he recorded, including "Blackwaterside".
Bert Jansch and John Renbourn play "The Time Has Come" on their duo
record before eventually recording it with the rest of Pentangle on
the "Sweet Child" release. One of Briggs' songs, "Mosaic Patterns"
(which she herself has never recorded) was recorded by blues
singer, Dorris Henderson
. Sandy Denny
wrote a song in tribute to Briggs,
called "The Pond and the Stream" on Fotheringay
Her name continues to be praised by younger singers — Eliza Carthy
and lead singer of Altan
, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
example. More recently Charlotte
and the Scottish band James Yorkston and the
have cited Anne Briggs as an influence on them.
of Current 93
also recently mentioned her in an
A song on Beth Orton
's Comfort of Strangers
, 'Shadow of a
Doubt' is cited as an ode to the song 'You Go Your Way', the chorus
being somewhat directly lifted.
It has been suggested that the Richard Thompson
was written with Briggs in mind. The Scottish singer/songwriter
has said that Anne
Briggs was one of her inspirations when composing and arranging the
songs for her third solo album, "Milkwhite Sheets".
's instrumental Black Mountain Side
had previously been
recorded (with vocals) by Briggs as "Blackwater Side."
2009 album, The Hazards of Love
, was inspired by
Briggs's album of the same name.
- The Hazards of Love (EP) (1964)
- Anne Briggs (1971)
- The Time Has Come (1971)
- Sing a Song for You (1973)
Collection (Topic Records,
Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Anne Briggs et al.
Bert Lloyd, Anne Briggs and Frankie Armstrong
- The Bird in the Bush (1966)
TV documentary soundtrack
- Ken Hunt, 'Anne Briggs' Swing 51 issue 13/14, 8-16, 1989
- Colin Harper, Dazzling Stranger, 2001