Judy Dyble, a Singer in Fairport Convention and Beyond, Dies at 71


Judy Dyble, a singer and songwriter who was in the first recorded lineup of the British folk-rock institution Fairport Convention before going on to an extensive, though interrupted, recording career, died on Sunday in Oxfordshire, England. She was 71.

Her death, at a hospital, was announced on her Facebook page. No specific cause was given, but she learned she had lung cancer in 2019. She had lived in Oxfordshire since the 1970s.

With her crystalline soprano voice, Ms. Dyble emerged from London’s early 1960s folk scene as a teenager and joined the newly formed Fairport Convention in 1967. Fairport Convention set out to create a distinctively British folk-rock, glancing toward American rock ’n’ roll, psychedelia and country but also drawing on centuries of Celtic tradition. The band spawned a durable British genre: trad-rock.

Ms. Dyble sang on its 1968 debut album, “Fairport Convention,” but had been “unceremoniously dumped” from the band before it was released, she wrote on her website. She went on to work within and beyond folky contexts, dipping into progressive rock and electronic music, while joining anniversary reunions of Fairport Convention and its many ex-members through the decades.

Ms. Dyble was born on Feb. 13, 1949, in London. She took piano lessons as a child and frequented London’s folk pubs and clubs as a teenager. In her first group, Judy and the Folkmen, she played autoharp, holding it vertically and picking it like a banjo.

Fairport Convention was founded by musicians she had sung with around London: Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson, who was Ms. Dyble’s boyfriend at the time. On her website, she wrote, “They quite fancied having a girl in the band and I guess I was the nearest, so I was asked.”

The “Fairport Convention” album included songs from Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan alongside Fairport’s own, and it presented the band as England’s answer to Jefferson Airplane.

After leaving Fairport Convention, Ms. Dyble met the saxophonist Ian McDonald. They advertised their services to work with other musicians and were answered by the brothers Peter and Michael Giles and the guitarist Robert Fripp; the three had already made an album as Giles, Giles and Fripp. All five recorded demo songs together, later released as “The Brondesbury Tapes,” before Ms. Dyble moved on. Mr. Fripp, Mr. McDonald and Michael Giles formed the now-eminent progressive rock band King Crimson.

Ms. Dyble soon joined the singer and songwriter Jackie McAuley, who had backed Van Morrison in the group Them, to start Trader Horne. The band toured widely in Britain but made just one album, of Baroque-tinged psych-folk-pop, titled “Morning Way” (1970), before Ms. Dyble dissolved it.

In 1971, she had a short-lived group, DC and the MBs, with musicians from the Canterbury scene of jazz-influenced progressive rock — the saxophonist Lol Coxhill and the brothers Phil and Steve Miller. She married the disc jockey and music critic Simon Stable (born Simon de la Bedoyere) in 1971.

From 1973 to 1997, Ms. Dyble largely left music behind, although she appeared with Fairport Convention for its annual Copredy Festival in 1981 and 1982. She worked as a librarian, started a cassette-tape duplication company with her husband and raised their two children, Stephanie Hellsten and Dan Delabed, who survive her along with two grandchildren.

After the death of her husband in 1994, with her children in college, she rejoined Fairport Convention at Copredy for its 30th anniversary in 1997. She also sang at the group’s 35th, 40th and 50th anniversary reunions.

At 53, Ms. Dyble was drawn back into recording by a fan of Trader Horne: Marc Swordfish of the electronic band Astralasia, who asked her in 2002 to sing and write lyrics over his loops. They collaborated on her 2004 solo debut album, “Enchanted Garden,” as well as on two albums released in 2006, “Spindle” and “The Whorf,” both of which updated late-1960s psych-folk with digital technology.

She continued to record with other collaborators — in songs that ranged from intricate folk-pop to boundary-stretching suites — on “Talking With Strangers” (2009), “Starcrazy” (2011), “Flow and Change” (2013), “Earth Is Sleeping” and a 2017 duet album with Andy Lewis, “Summer Dancing.”

Ms. Dyble was reluctant to categorize her music. “All the lyrics I sing have a story behind them, and I guess that’s what the folky thing is,” she said in a 2013 interview with the website Let It Rock. “But I try not to tell a whole story; I just try to tell something that means something to me and it might resonate with someone else, but it might not mean the same thing.”

In 2015, she released “Gathering the Threads,” an anthology of her own rare recordings, while she worked with Dave Thompson on her autobiography, “An Accidental Musician” (2016).

Ms. Dyble performed a few gigs a year with her Band of Perfect Strangers, and recorded live albums at club shows. In 2015, she reunited with Jerry McAuley of Trader Horne for a 45th-anniversary performance of their album.

Ms. Dyble recorded with the progressive-rock band Big Big Train on “The Ivy Gate” and began writing songs with the band’s singer, David Longdon. Their album, “Between a Breath and a Breath,” is due for release in September under the name Dyble Longdon.

Announcing the album, Ms. Dyble wrote, “Quite a few of my lyrics have a touch of sadness about them but always with an optimism for the future and a desire to know what happens next.”

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