Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stuttering and Richard Thompson

I did not realize that the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson had a problem with stuttering when speaking in public. Back in the early 1980’s I saw him headline the Ann Arbor Folk Festival. He walked onstage with just his acoustic guitar, started singing, and held a theater audience spellbound for over an hour. That day no stutter was evident in his remarks between songs. Thompson’s name appears in this list of famous people with speech disorders.

Recently I saw an article in Performing Musician magazine that mentioned his stutter. I also found a BBC TV documentary about him called A Solitary Life. At ~3:00 minutes into the first segment of the YouTube video you can hear his stutter come out, prompted by the high stress of being followed around by a camera crew. Thompson played lead guitar for Fairport Convention, and then began writing songs for them. Later he left them, and his wife Linda sang while he played guitar. Eventually Richard began singing.

The Stuttering Home Page is one of the best online sources for information about stuttering. Pamela A. Mertz writes a blog about stuttering called Make Room for the Stuttering that recently passed the landmark of 200 posts.

You can find many songs by Richard Thompson on YouTube. Fairport Convention play Meet on the Ledge here. Linda Thompson sings the title song from the album I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight here. Richard sings 1952 Vincent Black Lightning here. He and Jo-El Sonnier perform the break-up polka song, Tear Stained Letter, here. Sonnier also has a Cajun nightmare video version here. Bonnie Raitt sings Dimming of the Day here.

The photo by Kevin Smith shows Richard Thompson playing at Croperdy, during the 2005 Fairport Convention reunion.

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