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 Steeleye bass guitarist Rick Kemp and their daughter, Rose Kemp, is also a singer. Their son, Alex Kemp, is, like his father, a guitarist and has deputised for his father playing bass guitar for Steeleye Span. 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 since. 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.


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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, with a third, in autumn 2013.

In November and December 2013 Prior toured 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

Steeleye Span English folk rock band, formed 1969

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".

<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.

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

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

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<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.

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.

Frederick Stanley '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.

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<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

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<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

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

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<i>They Called Her Babylon</i> 2004 studio album by Steeleye Span

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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.

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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. "Steeleye Span - Electric Folk (BBC Four) 1974". YouTube. 16 March 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  4. "Electric Proms 2008 - Artists - Maddy Prior". BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  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.