from Teignmouth, Devon, England
April 4, 1939 (age 81)
When it comes to British folk music, no bass player comes close to having the influence of Danny Thompson. A founding member of British folk-pop pioneers Pentangle, Thompson's resumé includes work with Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, Donovan, Sandy Denny, Eric Clapton, Richard Thompson, Marc Bolan, Heidi Berry, Tim Buckley, Kate Bush, John Martyn, Rod Stewart, Sonny Terry, Josh White, Jr., and Alexis Korner. His debut solo album, Whatever, released in 1995, was included on a Top Ten list by The Times of London and was chosen as a pick of the year by The Guardian. Thompson's earliest musical experiences came as a jazz bassist. After a brief period with British saxophonist Tubby Hayes' band, he accepted an invitation to join Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated in 1964. He remained with the group until leaving, with drummer Terry Cox, to form the rhythm section of Pentangle in 1967. Although he released an impressive debut album, The Danny Thompson Trio, the same year, with jazz saxophonist Tony Roberts and guitarist John McLaughlin, he believed that the commercial potential was greater with Pentangle and committed his services to the group. During the five years that the original Pentangle was together, Thompson exceeded his own expectations. Together with Cox, guitarist/vocalists Bert Jansch and John Renbourne, and vocalist Jacqui McShee, he and Pentangle transformed traditional British folk music into a popular art form. He eventually tired of playing traditional music, however, telling an interviewer, "there was no reason for me to stay, no incentive, no enthusiasm. We were just continually rehashing old traditional songs." By the time that the original Pentangle disbanded, in 1972, Thompson had acquired a reputation as a session musician. In addition to recording with Donovan, Cliff Richards, and Rod Stewart, he worked extensively with British folksingers Nick Drake and John Martyn, with whom he shared a passion for alcohol. Managing to kick his addiction, in the late '70s, he continued to work as a studio musician, performing on sessions with Kate Bush, David Sylvain, and Talk Talk. Thompson formed his own band, Whatever, with saxophonist Paul Dunmall and guitarist John Ethridge, in 1987. The following year, he joined with Mali-born kora (21-stringed lute) player Toumani Diabate and Spanish flamenco group Katemah to form a multicultural acoustic group, Songhai. Although they recorded an impressive debut album, the group didn't perform together again until recording a second album, Songhai 2, in 1994. Thompson collaborated with Richard Thompson (no relation) on a duo tour and album, Industry, in 1997. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
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