NS17: The keys to the forest

The great singer and songwriter Jackie Leven died last year, after a brief and unheralded battle with cancer. This is one of his.

I was a huge fan of Jackie Leven’s post-punk band Doll by Doll, but after they split up in 1982 he disappeared from view. What most of us didn’t realise until much later was that he had suffered a brutal and traumatic assault in 1983, losing his voice completely as a result; in the aftermath he went downhill and ended up losing a year to heroin. Once restored to health, he worked for many years with recovering addicts before resuming his performing and recording career in the 1990s. This song is on his 2000 album Defending Ancient Springs; it begins in the territory of a folksong like She Moved Through The Fair, but ends somewhere else completely.

The zither featured on this track is a child’s instrument, picked up for next to nothing at a Hawkin’s Bazaar closing-down sale; it’s a decent instrument (wooden body, steel strings and pegs), if a bit basic (15-string, diatonic).

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Filed under Jackie Leven, not a folk song

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