Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Robert Plant plays tribute to Sandy Denny at Cropredy Festival

An onstage guest performance by Robert Plant at the Cropredy Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9, paid tribute to Sandy Denny, whose death at age 31 occurred in 1978.

To pay tribute to Denny, Plant joined Kristina Donahue onstage to share vocals with a run-through of "The Battle of Evermore." Denny sang on the original recording of this song released on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album in 1971.

The onstage arrangement Donahue and Plant performed is almost identical to the one Plant and his touring band with Alison Krauss are currently using on the road.

The Cropredy Festival is an annual outdoor folk concert series held each August in England since 1979. It is organized by the group Fairport Convention, of which Denny was a member off and on between the years 1968 and 1976.

The 30th anniversary of her death was marked at this year's festival by a video montage shown on the giant screen in her honor.

Plant has made several onstage appearances at the festival through the years, first in 1986 (see video of this appearance here) and with the band Priory of Brion in 2000, when he opted not to be mentioned by name. That year, the Cropredy Festival's Web site went along with the band's running gag of anonymity, describing the Priory of Brion as a "new band that features a very special vocalist who has made several surprise appearances with Fairport and is a man who we consider to have a very 'blossoming' talent."

But Plant has also been known to attend the festival even without performing. A fan of this Web site, Helen Cox in England, attests to this point. First, her thoughts on his performance of "The Battle of Evermore" this year:
"It was absolutely brilliant and made all the rain, mud and infected insect bites suddenly worthwhile!! He is often at Cropredy even if he's not playing...a friend of mine spotted him one year buying a vegan bean burger at the wholefood stand!! He's entitled [as of his 60th birthday later this month] to the [free] bus pass so he might as well go for it I guess...don't think they're means tested so that means even multi millionaires get one!!"
Update, Jan. 30, 2009: As the lineup for the 2009 Cropredy Festival is currently being announced, Fairport member and Cropredy organizer Simon Nicol was just quoted in the North Devon Journal on why hugely popular artists including Robert Plant are attracted to perform at their festival. He says it's the casual interaction among musicians and fans:
"Everyone who plays there and wants a drink has to go out to the bar and stand there with everyone else. That is a tradition now and everyone respects it. Even huge stars like Robert Plant can come to the festival and people won't pester him for autographs. It's a unique experience for him and he really enjoys it. If he goes anywhere else he's got to have blacked out windows on the limo. It's crazy."

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