Singer-songwriter Roy Harper rediscovers youth - and vice versa

Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:38am EDT
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By Jeremy Gaunt

LONDON (Reuters) - After decades as a critically acclaimed but fringe figure in music, British singer-songwriter Roy Harper is suddenly finding himself in demand.

Aged 72 and some 50 years into his career, Harper has been "discovered" by the young - drawn by his complex, intelligent lyrics and his persona as poetic outsider.

Where once he was embraced by the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin - he sang "Have A Cigar" for the former and had "Hats Off To (Roy) Harper" written about him by the latter - he now counts new-folkies like Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom and Jonathan Wilson as ardent fans.

Newsom, a 31-year old Californian harpist and singer, went as far as to persuade him to appear with her at the Royal Albert Hall in 2007 and to play his most popular album, "Stormcock", in its entirety.

Harper is now about to release his first collection of new songs in over a decade, the perhaps aptly named "Man and Myth".

"I thought I had retired," Harper told Reuters in an interview, saying he had been happily working away building a garden in his Irish home and cataloguing his life's work.

"I was in one world, but the next world had found me, so I had to respond to it," he said. "That meant gathering my wits and going forward with a new record."

Harper - who is celebrated in part for his refusal to seek commercial fame as his '60s and '70s contemporaries did - expresses little surprise that a new young audience, much of it on America's West Coast, has found him.   Continued...

British musician Roy Harper speaks to a reporter during an interview in London in this picture provided by Joshua Gaunt taken July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Gaunt/Handout via Reuters