Norma Waterson on vocals, her husband Martin Carthy on guitar and vocals and their daughter Eliza Carthy on fiddle and vocals. Rest in Peace, Norma. Thank you for the songs.
Tributes are paid to the acclaimed singer, a member of British folk music’s “most famous family”.
Renowned singer Norma Waterson – matriarch of the “royal family of British folk music” – has died.
Norma, brother Mike, sister Lal formed The Watersons in the 1960s, achieving critical acclaim for their work.
The 82-year-old, from Hull, had been unable to perform for years due to illness and had been in hospital with pneumonia.
Her daughter, the musician Eliza Carthy, announced her mother’s death with “monumental sadness” on Sunday.
Alongside cousin John Harrison the three siblings started to perform at venues around Hull in the 1960s and went on to become a celebrated folk group.
With their traditional songs and close harmonies they were “long considered the royal family of British folk music”, according to the New York Times.
The combined Waterson/Carthy family has long been a fixture of the UK folk music scene, with Martin Carthy, Norma’s Husband, twice winning BBC Radio 2’s Folk Singer of the Year Award.
Singer Billy Bragg was among fellow musicians to pay tribute, and said his thoughts were “with Martin and Eliza and the rest of the family”.
A plaque to the late Lal Waterson, Norma’s sister, was unveiled in September on a house in Hull where she once lived. Many family members were present and sang at the event.
Eliza Carthy and her two children moved back to her North Yorkshire home to help care for her mother more than a decade ago.
Norma, the eldest Watersons sibling, survived both Lal Waterson, who died in 1998, and Mike Waterson, who died in 2011.
The folk musician Eliza Carthy has asked fans for financial support to aid her parents, celebrated musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, after their income from live performances “dried up” during the Covid-19 crisis.
Waterson has long been unable to perform owing to illness, Eliza wrote on the fundraising website Ko-Fi, and is currently hospitalised with pneumonia.
“Right now the Carthy family, as many others, is struggling to survive the pandemic,” wrote Eliza, who moved closer to her parents 11 years ago in order to help care for Waterson.
“They urgently need funds to tide them over until the pandemic lifts and Martin and Eliza can return to touring and again become self-sufficient.”
Martin Carthy, 80, is one of the most influential musicians in British folk. He has released more than 40 albums as a solo artist, a member of Steeleye Span and the Albion Country Band, in collaboration with the late fiddle player Dave Swarbrick and with his wife and daughter as Waterson-Carthy.
In 2014, he received the lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. He was named “arguably the greatest English folk song performer, writer, collector and editor of them all” by Q magazine, and inspired peers such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.
Waterson, 82, is one of the original members of traditional group the Watersons and a collaborator with Richard Thompson and members of Pentangle along with her family members. She received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards lifetime achievement prize in 2016.
In December, UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak about “the devastating impact the growth of the omicron variant is having on the UK music industry”.
Many musicians have felt no choice but to postpone their immediate forthcoming tours given uncertainty over safety, including UK bands Wolf Alice and Blossoms, despite a lack of government support for cancelled events.
A UK Music report published in October said that one in three jobs in the UK music industry were lost during the preceding 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Martin and Eliza Carthy are due to play live throughout the UK this winter, with an intermittent run of dates kicking off in Durham on 27 January. Eliza wrote that she had recorded a new album during the pandemic, proceeds from which would also help the family.
More than 2,500 people had supported the Carthy campaign at the time of publication. “I am a long-standing folk traditionalist,” wrote supporter Stephen Lyons. “Where would we be without these two? Eh? Love to them.”
The famed producer Van Dyke Parks also voiced his support on Twitter: “I am asking all who can help to contribute. These two are the key to what’s left of Celtic culture –and innocence – in the UK. I admire Martin so … Let’s make this an end-game victory, as a folk dynasty appeals for financial support.”
Martin Carthy (born May 21, 1941 ) is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and later artists such as Richard Thompson, since he emerged as a young musician in the early days of the folk revival.
Cambridge Folk Festival 1977
00:00 Opening cue
01:11 The Bed Making
04:24 The Worcestershire Wedding
08:32 Bruton Town
14:52 Lumps of Plumb Pudding / Three Around Three
19:18 Johnny Sands
21:45 January Man
26:12 Closing cue
Audio taken directly from the BBC Transcription Services disc:
BBC Transcription Service CN2977/S. STEREO
Made in England 1978
BBC Transcription Services albums were limited pressings of BBC music programmes – usually live recordings – that were shipped to radio stations worldwide for broadcast purposes. Few original discs still exist as stations were instructed to destroy their copies when the broadcast license expired. This disc surfaced in Australia in 2011 and is now in my collection. It’s likely to be one of very few copies of this particular programme still in existence. A low-fi mp3 has been circulating for a few years but as my copy is of much higher quality I’m sharing it here. This is a straight rip from the vinyl with some minor noise reduction applied to eliminate the worst of the pops and crackles.
The recording is from the 1977 Cambridge Folk Festival and was made for “Folkweave”, a BBC Radio 2 programme broadcast in the late-1970s. “Folkweave” was originally presented by Tony Capstick from Manchester but this is introduced by Toni Arthur “from the BBC in London” so it may be an edited version of the original UK broadcast prepared for the international audience. It’s possible that a longer recording of this concert existed at some point but it has yet to surface.