Richard Thompson is playing three sold out shows at Old Town School of Folk Music over Sunday April 9th and Monday April 10th. If you don’t know him, Thompson is one of the fathers of British Folk Rock. His body of work includes 40 albums, and his songs have been performed by Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, REM, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt, Patty Lovelace, Los Lobos, Tom Jones, David Byrne, Don Henley, and countless other famous musicians. He’s toured with Wilco and Bob Dylan, and he’s one hell of a guitarist. Richard Thompson is a music legend, and while I am hotly anticipating his concert, it gives me a bit of a wistful feeling.
My favorite Richard Thompson songs belong to the period he was married to Linda Peters and performed as one half of the folk rock duo, Richard and Linda Thompson. Last year I listened to the album I Want to See the Bright Lights during my first long winter in Chicago as I bitterly worked a crappy desk job. The album’s spirit felt young, scrappy and lost just like me.
Richard and Linda Thompson’s last album together, Shoot Out the Lights is now just as dear to me. The lyrics are more mature, speaking to the weariness from long endured dissatisfaction. In the eight years between the two albums, Richard Thompson converted to Sufism, a mystic form of Islam. He and Linda left music and lived on a Sufi commune for several years in the 70s. In later interviews, it seems Linda was never really as committed to Sufism, nor commune living despite her husband’s beliefs. In 1982, after recording Shoot Out the Lights, Richard left then pregnant Linda for another woman. She began to suffer from a throat condition called spasmodic dysphonia which prevented her from singing.
Reading about their relationship can make a person weary. The might not have been a great match, but the music they made together is some of my favorite, and like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, their break-up album Shoot Out the Lights is their best.
Like losing a best friend to growing older and diverging interests, a beloved musical group’s fracturing can feel like a small death. Paul Simon’s solo career is fun, but I’m not really sure why he couldn’t just continue playing with Art Garfunkel. I’m excited to see Richard Thompson, but I wish Linda was playing as well.
Enjoy this playlist, which is a tribute to break-up albums, romantic dissatisfaction, and Richard and Linda Thompson.