Richard Thompson

We had a real treat Thursday night: the Celebrate Brooklyn outdoor-concert series presented a performance by the Richard Thompson Band at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

If you aren’t familiar with Richard Thompson, you should be: since his early days as a member of Fairport Convention back in the 60’s, he has been regarded as one of the world’s most gifted and passionate singers and songwriters, and he is also a preeminent master of both the acoustic and electric guitar. It is hard to pin him down musically; his influences range from the traditional folk music of his native Britian all the way through blues, R&B, and psychedelic rock. He is also blessed with an enormous baritone voice, a rich and expressive instrument that just seems to get better with age.

The word “artist” has been devalued nowadays to the point where people use it even to refer to such nullities as Britney Spears and Nelly, but RT is the real deal. If you’d like an introduction, here is a recording of a live performance, on solo acoustic guitar, of his ballad Vincent ’52. And here are the lyrics, if you’d like to follow along:

Oh says Red Molly to James “That’s a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like”
Says James to Red Molly “My hat’s off to you
It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I’ve seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme”
And he pulled her on behind and down to Boxhill they did ride

Oh says James to Red Molly “Here’s a ring for your right hand
But I’ll tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man.
For I’ve fought with the law since I was seventeen,
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.
Now I’m 21 years, I might make 22
And I don’t mind dying, but for the love of you.
And if fate should break my stride
Then I’ll give you my Vincent to ride”

“Come down, come down, Red Molly” called Sergeant McRae
“For they’ve taken young James Adie for armed robbery.
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
Oh come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside”
When she came to the hospital, there wasn’t much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
He said “I’ll give you my Vincent to ride”

Says James “In my opinion, there’s nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won’t do,
Ah, they don’t have a soul like a Vincent 52”
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
Said “I’ve got no further use for these.
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home”
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

– Richard Thompson
– two letter words, © 1996 Richard Thompson

You can also listen to another recent concert by the band, courtesy of NPR, here. The sound quality could be better, but you get what you pay for.

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