Saturday, November 24, 2012

Vale Ian Campbell, 10 June 1933 – 24 November 2012

Ian Campbell, who has died from cancer aged 79, was a leading singer in the British folk revival of the 1960s, and one of only a few folk artists to have had a song in the singles charts. His group's recording of The Times They Are a-Changin' reached no 42 in 1965. Campbell was recognised at this year's BBC Radio 2 Folk awards for his outstanding contribution to traditional music. With the award in his hand, he launched unscheduled into a short, unaccompanied, traditional song, Rattlin' Roarin' Willie.
 Ian Campbell Folk Group - L-R Brian Clark, Lorna Campbell, John Dunkerley, Ian Campbell and Dave Swarbrick, posed group portrait (Photo by Brian Shuel/Redferns) Photograph: Brian Shuel/Redferns (2001)
Campbell was born in Aberdeen. His parents, Betty and Dave, were singers who specialised in the songs of north-east Scotland. In 1946, the family moved to Birmingham for work and, when Campbell left school, he became an apprentice in the city's jewellery quarter, where he subsequently worked for many years as an engraver. He married Pat in 1952 and they had four boys in the space of six years.

He was also a noted songwriter. Several numbers on the band's 1970 album The Sun Is Burning were picked up by other singers. These included two strong antiwar songs, The Old Man's Tale and the title track, which gained great popularity within CND and outside. In his sleeve notes, Campbell wrote: "The demonstrators marched to the strains of [John Brunner's song] The H-Bomb's Thunder, but when circumstances called for something less rousing and more introspective, this … was the song that … often met the need."

For several years, the Campbell family ran one of the country's most successful folk clubs, the Jug o' Punch, , presenting most of Britain's leading performers in the genre to packed houses, usually in the large rear room of Digbeth's civic hall in Birmingham. Having the country's most popular folk group as the resident band certainly helped.

After the Ian Campbell Folk Group split in 1978, Campbell did a degree in theatre studies at Warwick University, after which he worked as a television producer and presenter; he was one of the team that worked at TV-am. He returned to full-time singing after a few years.


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