Maddy Prior

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Maddy Prior
Steeleye Span - Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2006 (2).jpg
Background information
Birth nameMadelaine Edith Prior
Born (1947-08-14) 14 August 1947 (age 72)
Origin Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Genres British folk rock, folk
Occupation(s)Singer, Dancer
Instruments Vocals, Percussion
Years active1967–present
Labels Park
Associated acts Steeleye Span
Maddy Prior and Tim Hart
Brass Monkey
Silly Sisters
The Carnival Band
June Tabor
Rose Kemp (Prior's daughter)

Madelaine Edith "Maddy" Prior, MBE (born 14 August 1947) is an English folk singer, best known as the lead vocalist of Steeleye Span. [1] She was born in Blackpool and moved to St Albans in her teens. Her father, Allan Prior, was co-creator of the police drama Z-Cars . She was married to Rick Kemp and their daughter Rose Kemp is also a singer. She was part of the singing duo 'Mac & Maddy' with Mac MacLeod. She then performed with Tim Hart and recorded two albums with him before they helped to found the group Steeleye Span in 1969. She left Steeleye Span in 1997 but returned in 2002 and has toured with them in 2008/9 and 2013. With June Tabor she was the singing duo Silly Sisters. She toured with the Carnival Band in 2007 and with Giles Lewin and Hannah James in 2012 and 2013. She has released singles and albums as a solo artist, with these bands and in several collaborations. She runs an Arts Centre called Stones Barn in Bewcastle in Cumbria which offers residential courses.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Steeleye Span English rock band

Steeleye Span are an English folk rock band formed in 1969. Still active today, they are, along with Fairport Convention, amongst the best known acts of the British folk revival, and were among the most commercially successful, thanks to their hit singles "Gaudete" and "All Around My Hat". They had four Top 40 albums and achieved a certified gold record with sales of "All Around My Hat".

St Albans City in Southern Hertfordshire, England

St Albans is a city in Hertfordshire, England and the major urban area in the City and District of St Albans. It lies east of Hemel Hempstead and west of Hatfield, about 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of central London, 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Welwyn Garden City and 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of Luton. St Albans was the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and it became the Roman city of Verulamium. It is a historic market town and is now a dormitory town within the London commuter belt and the Greater London Built-up Area.


Early life

Born in Blackpool, Prior moved in her teens to St Albans, where she befriended the young Donovan Leitch and Mac MacLeod in The Cock pub. She later formed a duo with MacLeod called 'Mac & Maddy'. She became a roadie for visiting American musicians, including Reverend Gary Davis. They gave her useful advice about singing English folk songs instead of American songs. Her father, Allan Prior, was co-creator of the police drama Z-Cars , and wrote Stookie, a 6-part series for television, about a boy with his arm in a sling. Maddy sang the title song, which was released as a single in 1985. It reappeared on the Steeleye Span album A Rare Collection 1972 – 1996.

Blackpool Place in England

Blackpool is a town and seaside resort on the Lancashire coast in North West England. The town is on the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Preston, 27 miles (43 km) north of Liverpool, 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Bolton and 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Manchester. It had an estimated population of 139,720 at the 2011 Census, making it the most populous town in Lancashire.

Donovan Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist

Donovan is a Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist. He developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music. He has lived in Scotland, Hertfordshire (England), London, California, and since at least 2008 in County Cork, Ireland, with his family. Emerging from the British folk scene, Donovan reached fame in the United Kingdom in early 1965 with live performances on the pop TV series Ready Steady Go!.

Mac MacLeod British musician

Mac MacLeod is an English musician who was a part of the Hertfordshire folk and blues scene from 1959 onwards. He played in St Albans alongside Mick Softley, Maddy Prior and toured with John Renbourn. Influences include Softley, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Derroll Adams, Jesse Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Snooks Eaglin, Reverend Gary Davis and Davey Graham.

Singing career

After a brief stint with Mac MacLeod in 'Mac & Maddy' (another act formed at The Cock pub), by 1966 she began performing with Tim Hart, another St Albans resident, and together they recorded two albums before becoming founding members of Steeleye Span in 1969. [2] They were the backbone of the group until the early 1980s when ill-health forced Hart into semi-retirement. Prior plays the tambourine, spoons and ukulele, and always gives a sprightly performance of her individual dances. In 1974 Ralph McTell wrote "Maddy Dances" in her honour, included on his album Easy.

Tim Hart was an English folk singer and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a founding member of British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

Tambourine Musical instrument in the percussion family

The tambourine is a musical instrument in the percussion family consisting of a frame, often of wood or plastic, with pairs of small metal jingles, called "zills". Classically the term tambourine denotes an instrument with a drumhead, though some variants may not have a head at all. Tambourines are often used with regular percussion sets. They can be mounted, for example on a stand as part of a drum kit, or they can be held in the hand and played by tapping or hitting the instrument.

Spoon (musical instrument) musical instrument

Spoons can be played as a makeshift percussion instrument, or more specifically, an idiophone related to the castanets. They are played by hitting one spoon against the other.

Prior married bassist Rick Kemp, though they have since divorced. The singer Rose Kemp is their daughter.

Rick Kemp is an English bass player, guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and record producer, best known for his work with the British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

Rose Kemp British musician

Rose Kemp is an English singer and guitarist who performs in a variety of musical genres. She is the daughter of Maddy Prior and Rick Kemp of the folk-rock band Steeleye Span.

Prior has recorded session work, albums of her own songs and eclectic styles from medieval (with The Carnival Band), through British folk rock — Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior appeared on television with a regular BBC 4 programme Electric Folk [3] prog-rock and traditional songs, including session work on Mike Oldfield's Incantations . She left Steeleye Span in 1997 but returned in 2002. The 1999 album The Journey was recorded in 1995, when Maddy was still in the band but not released until four years later. She was also one half of the duo Silly Sisters, which helped to boost June Tabor's career.

The Carnival Band is an English early music group. Their broad repertoire focuses on popular music from the 16th and 17th centuries, and traditional music from around the world. Presentation is informal and humorous, and in the spirit of medieval and renaissance Carnival. The band was founded by Andy Watts and Giles Lewin while they were members of the Medieval Players touring theatre company in the 1980s. They have had a long association with Maddy Prior.

British folk rock is a form of folk rock which developed in the United Kingdom from the mid 1960s, and was at its most significant in the 1970s. Though the merging of folk and rock music came from several sources, it is widely regarded that the success of "The House of the Rising Sun" by British band the Animals in 1964 was a catalyst, prompting Bob Dylan to "go electric", in which, like the Animals, he brought folk and rock music together, from which other musicians followed. In the same year, the Beatles began incorporating overt folk influences into their music, most noticeably on their Beatles for Sale album. The Beatles and other British Invasion bands, in turn, influenced the American band the Byrds, who released their recording of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" in April 1965, setting off the mid-1960s American folk rock movement. A number of British groups, usually those associated with the British folk revival, moved into folk rock in the mid-1960s, including the Strawbs, Pentangle, and Fairport Convention.

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

Since 2003, Prior has run and hosted an Arts Centre called Stones Barn in Cumbria. Working with fellow singers and performers like Abbie Lathe and daughter Rose Kemp, Prior has offered residential courses focusing on singing, meditation, cookery and performance. Other events, hosted by other teachers, include classical Indian dances, painting and drumming. Prior campaigns on behalf of the charity Cancer Research UK.

Cumbria Ceremonial (geographic) county of England

Cumbria is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in North West England. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local government, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria's county town is Carlisle, in the north of the county, and the only other major urban area is Barrow-in-Furness on the southwestern tip of the county.

Cancer Research UK Cancer research and awareness charity

Cancer Research UK is a cancer research and awareness charity in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man, formed on 4 February 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Its aim is to reduce the number of deaths from cancer. As the world's largest independent cancer research charity it conducts research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Research activities are carried out in institutes, universities and hospitals across the UK, both by the charity's own employees and by its grant-funded researchers. It also provides information about cancer and runs campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the disease and influencing public policy.

Recent tours and albums

Maddy Prior took to the road with The Carnival Band in May 2007 for their "Music for Tavern and Chapel" tour. They celebrated the 300th anniversary of one of the key influences on their work, Charles Wesley. She made a guest appearance with The Levellers at the Solfest Festival in Cumbria in August 2007. On recent albums Troy Donockley has been a co-producer.

In December 2007 the album Ringing The Changes was issued. It is a collection of songs written by the band. In 2008 Maddy Prior appeared at the BBC's "Electric Proms". [4] Steeleye Span toured the Eastern US, Australia and the UK beginning in 2009.

With Giles Lewin and Hannah James, Prior completed two successful UK tours in the spring and autumn of 2012, and a third in autumn 2013.

In November and December 2013, Prior is also touring again with Steeleye Span, on the Wintersmith Tour, following the release in October of their album Wintersmith, a collaborative project based on the novel of the same name by Sir Terry Pratchett.

A short tour with The Carnival Band in November and December, featuring carols and seasonal music, has become a regular fixture for Prior in recent years.


In 2001 Maddy Prior was awarded the MBE for services to folk music. [5] In 2014 she received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Cumbria. [6]


With Steeleye Span

Prior was on all the Steeleye Span albums from Hark! The Village Wait (1970) to Time (1996). She then returned for Present – The Very Best of Steeleye Span (2002) and subsequent albums.

Solo albums


Tim Hart and Maddy Prior

Maddy Prior and June Tabor

Maddy Prior, John Kirkpatrick and Sydney Carter

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band

Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy

Maddy Prior, Giles Lewin and Hannah James

Maddy Prior singles


As a session or guest singer

She appeared on these albums:


Related Research Articles

<i>Below the Salt</i> 1972 studio album by Steeleye Span

Below the Salt is the fourth studio album by Steeleye Span and their first after they joined the Chrysalis label. The album takes medieval influence and combines it with the band's British folk rock style. The lineup on the album includes Bob Johnson and Rick Kemp making their debuts in the band. By this point, Ashley Hutchings had left the band, leaving Tim Hart and Maddy Prior as the only remaining founding members.

<i>Hark! The Village Wait</i> 1970 studio album by Steeleye Span

Hark! The Village Wait is the debut album by the British folk rock band Steeleye Span, first released in 1970. It is the only album to feature the original lineup of the band as they broke up and reformed with an altered membership immediately after its release, without ever having performed live. Therefore, it is one of only two Steeleye Span studio albums to feature two female vocalists, the other being Time (1996). A similar sound was apparent years later when Prior teamed up with June Tabor to form Silly Sisters. Overall, the album's sound is essentially folk music with rock drumming and bass guitar added to some of the songs. The banjo features prominently on several tracks, including "Blackleg Miner", "Lowlands of Holland" and "One Night as I Lay on My Bed".

<i>All Around My Hat</i> (album) 1975 studio album by Steeleye Span

All Around My Hat is a 1975 album by Steeleye Span, their eighth and highest-charting, reaching number 7 on the UK Albums Chart, and staying on the charts for six months. It was produced by Mike Batt, who also produced their follow-up album, "Rocket Cottage". It briefly made the band a household name in the UK. In the United States it became the band's first album to chart, reaching number 143.

Robert Johnson is a British guitarist. He was formerly in British folk rock band Steeleye Span from 1972 to 1977, and again from 1980 to 2001.

<i>Commoners Crown</i> 1975 studio album by Steeleye Span

Commoners Crown is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span, their seventh release overall and the second album with the band's most commercially successful line-up. It reached number 21 in the UK album charts.

<i>Rocket Cottage</i> 1976 studio album by Steeleye Span

Rocket Cottage is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

<i>Storm Force Ten</i> 1977 studio album by Steeleye Span

Storm Force Ten is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span, the band's 10th effort, released in 1977.

<i>Sails of Silver</i> 1980 studio album by Steeleye Span

Sails of Silver is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

<i>Back in Line</i> 1986 studio album by Steeleye Span

Back in Line is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

Pete Zorn was an American multi-instrumentalist who was a longstanding member of Richard Thompson's backing band. He was also a member of Steeleye Span, The Albion Band, and Driver 67.

<i>Ravenchild</i> 1999 studio album by Maddy Prior

Ravenchild is the first album recorded by Maddy Prior after she stopped working with the Carnival Band.

<i>Bloody Men</i> 2006 studio album by Steeleye Span

Bloody Men is the 20th studio album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span.

<i>Parcel of Rogues</i> (album) 1973 studio album by Steeleye Span

Parcel of Rogues is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span. It was their most successful album thus far, breaking into the Top 30.

<i>Cogs, Wheels & Lovers</i> 2009 studio album by Steeleye Span

Cogs, Wheels & Lovers is the twenty-first studio album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span. It was released on 26 October 2009. It is the band's fourth studio album to feature the line-up of Maddy Prior, Peter Knight, Rick Kemp, Ken Nicol and Liam Genockey.

<i>Wintersmith</i> (Steeleye Span album) 2013 studio album by Steeleye Span

Wintersmith is the twenty-second studio album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span. It was released in October 2013. It features the line-up of Maddy Prior, Peter Knight, Rick Kemp, Julian Littman, Pete Zorn and Liam Genockey. Guest musicians are Terry Pratchett (voice), Kathryn Tickell, Bob Johnson (vocals), and John Spiers (melodeon).

<i>Dodgy Bastards</i> 2016 studio album by Steeleye Span

Dodgy Bastards is the twenty-third studio album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span. It was released in October 2016. It is the band's first studio album to feature the line-up of Maddy Prior, Julian Littman, Rick Kemp, Spud Sinclair, Jessie May Smart and Liam Genockey.


  1. The Times, 28 January 2000; interview with Maddy Prior
  2. Nickson, Chris. "Biography: Maddy Prior". Allmusic . Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  3. BBC 4 archive,
  4. BBC Electric Proms 2008
  5. Martin Chilton (7 January 2011). "Maddy Prior: Vaughan Williams, Carols, Songs & Hymns: CD Review". The Daily Telegraph. image 2 of 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  6. "University of Cumbria Honorary Fellows 2014". 8 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2016.