Shirley Collins first enjoyed success as one of the leading figures in the British folk revival of the 1960s. She initially performed with her sister, Dolly Collins, and also collaborated with other folk luminaries to create some of the era’s most beloved albums. In the past decade she has made an acclaimed return to the concert stage and the recording studio. Shirley was born in Sussex in 1935. She can still recall how her grandfather used to sing folk songs to comfort her while they were sheltering during German air raids in the early 1940s. Alongside her career as a singer, in the 1950s she travelled to the American South with Alan Lomax, where they made field recordings of blues and folk musicians, helping to create a significant archive. Later in her performing career, Shirley found that she could no longer sing, following a distressing betrayal in her private life. She stepped away from music and was silent for many years, taking on other work, including a stint in a job centre Then, in her 80s, she found her voice again. In 2016 she released her first new album after a gap of almost four decades, and she has since released two more albums. Shirley lives in Sussex, not far from her childhood home. DISC ONE: Chiling O Guiry - Concerto Caledonia DISC TWO: The Birds in the Spring - The Copper Family DISC THREE: Who Would True Valour See - Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band DISC FOUR: Dear Father, Pray Build Me a Boat - Sheila Smith DISC FIVE: 61 Highway Blues - Mississippi Fred McDowell DISC SIX: Poor Sally Sits a-weeping - Dolly Collins DISC SEVEN: A Heart Needs A Home - Richard & Linda Thompson DISC EIGHT: Going Home - Mark Knopfler BOOK CHOICE: A collection of Brodie detective novels by Kate Atkinson LUXURY ITEM: A solar powered fridge filled with Italian Ice cream and two lipsticks CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Poor Sally Sits a Weeping Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Previously. Sounds music radio broadcasts, hello, I'm lorna then, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island and for right reasons the music is shorter than the euro it'll broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I My castaway this is the singer. Shirley collins, a heroine of the british foe. music, seen, along with her sister, dolly shirley collins, spearheaded the folk revival of the nineteen sixties.
waiting. Some of the areas most beloved albums and collaboration with contemporaries, including davy, graham but yeah, and the incredible string band her interest in folk music began. when she was a child sheltering from german bombs during the second world war. Her grandfather would sing the sussex folk songs of his own childhood to comfort her. He gifted her a lifelong love of the sums of england's passed and the unadorned direct focus AL which would become her signature. As a young woman in the nineteen fifties, she traveled to the american south with her then partner, the music archivist Alan lomax, the field recordings they captured of folk and blues artists like mississippi fred MC now would go on to become global music treasures. Preserving
voices of our collective past. Her own voice was lost for decades. She suffered from dysphonia for almost forty years, but she eventually recovered it, making a triumphant return to music in her eighties. With a suite of critically acclaimed albums, she says what I love about folk is that it's, the archaeology of music it is important, is that you dig up something and valuable and tells you about the time it comes from. Shelly Collins. Welcome to desert island go thinkers, wonderful to be here when it's lovely to have you surely and here in broadcasting house and asked you deal today, but I know that your first contact with the bbc happened quite some time ago, when you were just fifteen, will do it insisted eyes to go to the pictures every saturday after we'd been to the library there is one film called nightcap girl mitch about a girl. from tennessee. He was taken up to new york to sing in not camps, and
they not trombone, is played by and that drives the crazy about. I thought Oh that'll do for me. I won't be focusing. I owe their focus. I had been listening to songs at home that was sort of proper english, though sussex songs. I'm so such so far. Up by this. That I feel are a better on the bbc and let them know and None didn't hear anything at all but one day must be the year later this enough on the front door, and there was this gentleman bob copper who is collecting folk songs in the southeast? Further we archives and he was in hastings recording. So soon the fishermen in the air town and just a little somebody's handed in my letter and he popped up to is to see down in me, but like complete idiot three Instead of choosing the sum that grander gray sang to us return,
impress him as a very long skirts ballad, which I think we sang with scots accents. As well, but luckily bub had teenage children of his own, so I think he saw the funny side of it and but it it was the start of the long long, friendship, how lovely I'm so that he found you so always it about food. Take that you loved. It was because gump and saying to us during the word is comfort and toward me sing about, but the levels as to where to go back hundreds of years when in love is a bit crueler as well, and people weren't afraid to sing about the the strange, the deathly things, the evil and wicked things as witness the beautiful things and the love, songs and music your life's great passion, of course. So I can imagine that narrowing your selection down to just ain't today must have been very difficult. That has been extremely difficult because I haven't
got my range of music that I love. Let's get started with your first disk today. What have you chosen and why I love dances. I love english and scottish dont system, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when they were sort of proper, slightly heard again sooner than this is the most glorious melody fabulously played by David menaces concerto caledonia, especially the photoplay david green bag, So it's killing a glare played by the conjecture caledonia the
Sheila Nagoya, performed by concerto, colored Well, yeah, so, let's go back to the beginning, shirley collins! You were born in nineteen, thirty, five to dorothy and george. What are your memories of early life in Hastings? I think you would have been four when the second world war broke out again We were vaccinated twice, for instance, once to winning, odin city just early may without parents, and then, want to whale slated to urls with mum, because Hastings is a seaside town would have been a target. I mean it was the target Israel nosso, been to a bombing raids in london and if the planes had been turned back for the rich london they dropped their bombs.
As I don't love hastings, in fact, some labour bombed out of a house an incendiary bomb hit the house next door terrorists and how went with it, so they may have to move up to live without grace for a bit my sister, another machine gun deserved by a german plain, that is one of the hidden run, raids and we'd being given aren't graces little daughter in a to push down the road get her out of the way and him Mom always taught us that if we saw a plane- and we didn't know, we should throw ourselves under a hedge. wool and meet this huge black playlist, bing up from the sea and darlin. I says under the hedge, but plain machine gun. The road in front of us. we lay their bullets just hitting speaking on the road is terrifying and incredibly intense,
Miss fear, so no wonder that you needed to be comforted and in the arab shouts of Elias. You just sang the word sounded into the tune. He didn't the ties it is to straightforward, it's just just plain but beat her and then, when I listen to the proper failed recordings, sandpaper, seeing they didn't embellish with dots, are dramatics anything the as and it's story the attorney, and they want to tell you to you directly as possible. Surely aren't you I was away at war during the second world war and I think your mum worked as a bus conductor to keep money coming in the right. Tell me a little bit more abated. She was a communist wasn't genius. She was a communist richest, grudge, brave thing in those days and in hastings, She was also really interested nitro chechen cow, just to read she not just listening to classical music bit tim, not pop musical.
one of the things I remember she said so frequently to me: you ve got to admit it. No, I haven't man not this time, not always but was it you ve gotta, admit that sounds and sends a union is quite dogmatic and she's, wonderful, spirited, woman, and I mean this partly accounted. I think when dad was funny demobbed to the army and came home. He needed Stood a year or so myth with her and with us marriage students, as I was soon dogmatic, Opinionated and harsh in so many ways and dead, fell in love or moved on whether a red headed widow m who live to those away. I always think it was daylight air, but that wouldn't matter these days, but it mattered I'm going to ask you about you it out in the next sexual it's time for some more music. Shall your second choice today? What we got here. This is the best
in spring from the cover family. There very well known family in sussex, and they lived dancer whenever four hundred years and they were saying how many and is just rendezvous to hear them. This robust forces of the brothers in the since in the fathers I would to remember the birds in the spring. I'd want to remember: they schuyler says: I walked into the dams and I was odor innocent high in the sky. You can't see them, but you can hear them. Why im on a jogs far do stroll through the hills by the side of the row, and you know I heard shows we never so sweet
if you are so sweet as that then bring the parents in the spring six folk song, some by members of the copper family bob and wrong shelly. collins when the war was over, you must have been looking forward to your father coming back. Do you remember his return? I do have a strong engine vision of him coming down the state can, didn't help case, which was a wooden case and wearing a democracy judges and navy blue search. It just suddenly too tight for him, but I didn't know that that was my dad, but I did neighbourhood my sister television, that's dead, coming down the road is wonderful to having home but for long enough because he and mom just couldn't get on members be,
he's too no running the place just looking after everything and it just couldn't radius till I get an illusory to and then he was gone, and I didn't see him again until as thirty to enderley and I were giving a comes southampton and there instead a new audience, and that was the last I saw of him and he bought us a half pen box of milk tray chocolates each and it didn't seem quite adequate. Did you get the sense that he wanted to to reconnect with you trying to make amends? Oh, no! No! and what did he say it just came alone, said hello and is a journalist. I think, durham, if it has a few words in that I couldn't bring myself to minor left us without a word to address children. Also, us
Still have the memory of the one christmas he did send as a present, and that was a pair of stockings each, but they were stamped sub standard and I thought it's. What my dad thinks of me to my new. I didn't read them and just chaplain. Did you see him again after that night at the concert know, but out under the thing- is that when he moved away from aids is removed with this new family to south to sell books surely have to be careful when he died You know about it. Did you go to to didn't know about it?. Early found out somehow, because she is looking on keeping in touch and so finally, when the news came back, he had died died young. He died when he was sixty to sixty three over how to tackle- image. That Donnelly died the same as done and let's have some more music. Shall we have third choice today.
This is one of my own. No it's my favorite him there. john bunyan him to be a pilgrim phone williams collected sounds in the early part of the twentyth century in nineteen hundred and four and that time and this is in tune already existed for the to be a pilgrim and my favorite, the him. The wonderful jump, in him and ninety one hundred and four, so ever more news was asked to end. A new english hymnal. What he did was to took some of the hymns to the tune of some of the saucy collected said to him too appear been came from a mrs harry vera of monks gauge near wholesome, And if you look at the new english hymnal, this the words tune. Monks, gate unloved, lustily way many things it and that's how it should be son
come again will make him one day is that the dismal installed in muddy prior and the carnival band, who would true fallacy, shirley collins as a teenager, you gave your first public performances with your sister, dolly at the post hotel in Hastings. What are your memories of those occasions, a gate once again, the recession is two occasions sometimes literary occasions: Turley had board a very cheap guitar, through an ad in the daily worker protection working guitar
didn't know how to play. It says it is open to end it lay down her latin mistimed. A few codes was it so we were singing folk cells, metellus, stormy accompaniment to the bedroom get to such an event that the amendments are here. Oh yes, no, though so the politically sound and correction, possibly very sympathetic to us after leaving school. You went to london and I think he started training as a teacher, but left after a year. Why was that but didn't like it much It responds to send me. I think fifteen shillings a week a month, but he never. Did so. I never had any money nice to steer stuff from other like I'm in only things not squeezes if toothpaste and shakes of washing powder. If I need to do some washing never anything than that, but he was humiliating all vision
I wasn't in it. I didn't want to do that. Sea left teacher training collar yet resolved to be invoked sing out, but you have to find a way of supporting yourself. What were those early days for you, like in london. At the nineteen fifties, it was a tough time to make a living in all still very postwar rationing, nearly ass good, a job as a basque index, first, the sum in haste inside a little bit of money to get to london myth? Fortunately, I got a job in a bookshop in alsace, partner entities. and it was there. I discovered them two volumes shops, english or exemptions. southern appalachians, most wonderful collection of songs that he and his partner, maud karpeles, collected in the in benton on two hundred and one nineteen hundred and two, it was my first two weeks, wages in the bookshop and I lived on buns and I think packet soup, which in those days is pretty far, but it was worth it in the long run,
course was knows best money I ever spend. It starts perform, and you also went to warsaw and moscow to perform dude. What was that experience like useful testing the journey was incredible. For a start, we got through germany and the great big russian trains vision. where's huge singing you to climb up into it and it was a damn great red star in the front it is threatening and I did feel some sort socialists doings then I guess and real. major way across russia to moscow, stopping stations, where there are often people waiting. to give you bunches of flowers, o badges and I've been told to take knickerbockers chocolate with me to give back. You know, so I had done
and let's take a minute for symbol, music, shirley collins. This is your fourth choice. Today. What we're going to hear is just the sweetest recording of all time. I think a field recording that is from a little six year old girl in the terminal community, sheeted smith, in sussex in nineteen, fifty five and It's just the natural way she sings the sound it sir. delights me at the code It made him. Oh, come father. Bear me about data I know that cat calling flatow that aid kit back do pass by. I would inquire for my sign that boy.
I love cake, yeah, true that fuck. That was the way goty nah watch gucci. Absolutely this little comfort. I pray, build me a boat, Sheila smith So surely, in the summer of nineteen fifty nine you travel to america to work collecting songs with the music ecologist Alan low, max an incredible trip to go on. I imagine how exactly did it come about I had heard so many programmes. in collections. In size and in spain and italy and the maiden in the fifties, and allowed to meet him thought I never would until monday in imitation came from EU macao to a party that He was searching for ireland, who was just coming back doing the job difficulty in spain first, I went to work for him, but him in soon
into a relationship allows. he is younger than him, but the most incredible experience, because then he got out and coming asked about the blues about his failed recordings in the mississippi state penitentiary in the nineteen twenties Voters forties and I remember stepping on this wonderful ship, says united states, because that so poor pay for travel, juniors, and neither is it flew then, and it is a fact day voyage out of the most just sumptuous, food. He had just been on deck, the ocean over time. None that I was going to meet him at the other end. You travel around the deep south recording songs. Tell me about the kinds of people at your meeting, a record What sort of groups of people everyone really I mean we were so we started off virginia where there was mouth right: mountain music and the old british ballads bestow been so wonderful
The tunes fiddler pleasant, banjo players were women. onto the mississippi state penitentiary. Eminent being, then the nineteen twenties amounted to see how the music a change that the work sounds. The change I think I've saved and blues nineteen fifty nine framework. The era of the civil rights movement? Did you get a sense of that social change that was taking place around you, while you heckling? just then a year or so too soon, and I mean we ate segregated restaurants, research in segregated pools, and what did he make a thought? shaming, but it was That was soon there was no
two shifts a shame now of having gone along with it, not protesting, but we were there to record the music of the people, both white and black populations, latvian extraction, forget. The first sight I have of mississippi fred Mcdowell am he'd been picked no day and he came in the clearing where the checks were no children playing chicken scratching abandoned doves barking, and this very slight figure appeared through the trees. These were down greece and carrying a guitar and he's sat down and played sixty one highway blues, just the first thing he plays and it was the most one the sound, a shimmering metallic sounded the town, his wonderful voice and the wonderful blues itself asked get goose bumps. and about it now is so extraordinary and airline, and I were just looking each other second, their
in ireland right one word in his notebook, what you'd never written before perfect and that was mississippi Fred Mcdowell. a law lol sixty one highway blues, mississippi, Fred Mcdowell, social, they collins, what an amazing trip he returned to britain and you established yourself as a performer. You also met someone else.
son and by the early sixties, you married you are two very young children, but you were digging and travelling round the country with your banjo. How difficult was all that to manage owes difficult, indeed, of the law of sitting on late night station platforms and things cylinder was emphasised sitting on. Railway station, an unfinished dig, and I knew I wanted to get home. I didn't want to wait till morning, and there was this train that something at two o'clock and I was sitting on a bench with back in a hood my case and my banjo and two rather heavy shit cups came up and sort of almost accuse me of being a prostitute, and I thought how many banjo playing prostitutes if you knew you had to be fairly watch for you know getting around on your end and seven I started working with donate is lovely because then im driving in a car, and yeah and you had each other, certainly help each other. So the two of you started at working together, you performed
in recorded together and wrote some seminal albums and throughout sixtys and seventys working with family members allows lovely to have the company and not closeness. It sometimes can be quite trick did you ever have those zones no nourishing had never thoroughly river offers the best of friends and never cloud It was, it was too much to laugh about talk about, it is lovely being with it. I he was great citizen- must have her far young it's time for your sixth choice. Today, Shelly Collins, when he left tibet dollars. I mean during this arrangement, saw his beautiful and so true to the songs and so true to the English is occasionally the irishness of of his song, this particular, to impose any citizen weeping is, I think, one of the loveliest of english folks, songs and she plays just,
piano. So simply but what I'd love to see. Now. Even I hear it is a seed darley sitting at her piano or the the shogun shoes so upright and so grace her hands is so beautiful so demeanor was lovely, but this jacket Israel is one of the loveliest english folk tunes anyway and the way she plays it is so gentle and so sinful of feeling, and it just cracks me up when I listen to it still the
you'll, see stead dolly collins. Playing her own arrangement, surely have poor sally, sitter weeping dolly died of a heart attack in her early sixties. It must have been huge shock for you, yes, And I had again to them as well, It is extraordinary there may that classic river, when I better go and put the catalan. There is really very lucky to have hers. Assist, show me so much about nature and butterflies and apples.
She was a fake walker. Wasn't she didn't want to get a? We walked together all the time we were actually second lists and Shelley. The nineteen seventies had been another creative decade for you, you married your second husband, the musician ashley hutchings, but towards the end of that decade the marriage fell apart, and it was at that point that you lost your voice. He developed a kind She noticed this funnier. What actually happened? We working at the national theatre in production of luck rise to counterfeit, and during that time ashley fell in love with first round, then another actors and left her left just left me the moment one evening when I have come out outcome. home area, and he came home late and said to him. I've anew
when they came to the door and he said to him on seemed with love, I'm leaving in the morning, and I, member, just stand and crossing night long. I just cried, then describing cried but I still want to any living z, must support him either until I tried to continue national theatre, but one of them This is Emmett these prominent performances, so the audience is right up in as close as they could walk right in front of us, okay and the first actress, even in love with, but the up after standing rising from me trying to sing. Wearing his sweaters. I couldn't cope either couldn't I didn't know what to do some that so is fine and could sing well
some nice more verses is anything sunlight. A mammoth. Nothing came out to a news Eventually, I may find you so humiliating. I had to stop and you couldn't and sing in private. It wasn't just no home, and I couldn't sing at all- must have been devastated, was devastating. Let's take a break for seven. Disk journey will have chosen, Lindore Andreasen, harrison singing richard sung. Heart needs a home, is the one song I've played over and over and over again all the time. The rashly and I was breaking up- it's still lose we very much- and I too cylinder thompson is one. The gray soon, as underrated. Never quite properly acknowledged. Butter ready and sing ass. She was said this helped me through some day days,
the the I and the the a hot needs, a home linda and which it thomson shelly Collins, you, and your voice again after the thirty eight years and came back with a new album lodestar in twenty sixteen. What persuaded you back behind the microphone in and how was it to find your voice again? I think a good deal of the credit if critics rightward them has to go to David
bit of current ninety three who had befriended maven those working in the job centre came over with and said how much she had loved my singing and try to write me to sing again and I did manage to do do verses of recording for him, one him in one lullaby, but out on an album and then one day he said, look, I've got a concert. the chapel with current ninety three come alone. Seen two souls ass, such really lovely reception. Many vote out on stage as a bit wildly button lovely close the end and then it just such but somehow you learned at the comes a candid, possibly MR to thinking, but making an album We decided to record it in my cottage in loose and making it the birds and the guy that ever lived the sound
streaming through the kitchen window, and it is one of its delicacy songs on the urban. You several bits, again on again on there everything you can on your records, Charlie. I no because life it doesn't change he recently released in new album at the age of eighty eight. Have you got any plans to make any more? No other thing that must be. It surely Well Shelly eve had many adventures and is almost time for your next to an enhanced you away on a desert island. What do you think biggest challenge that your face. There is the practicalities, perhaps of approval be cannot as early as the planter candidates that I can't cope with the things not open jars, they're, going to back it serve. No packet learned no packets. There so said that would be a relief for nothing to worry about the fits the printer cartridges, but I've always wanted to do.
And never manage my love. I wanted to learn to swim the coup, that's what I will focus on getting my crew to too olympics date. How are you one company that have been loaded so long now that it's not gonna be much different. Really. My happy disk sticky company and will let you share one more with us before you go? Your eighth choice today shouted collins once again a bay one of my favorite movies, is local era and anything with lancastrian I left over here I know music is so great. A love might not fuller and its good going home and say what could be better than others triumphant music is vermin. Dim lovely makes me feel good every time. I hear it
the going who mark knopfler from local hero
ooh. Shirley collins, I'm going to send you away to the island I'll, give you the books to take with you, the bible, the complete works of shakespeare, and you can take one of the book of your choice. What would you like retarded like the jackson brodie novels, Kate Atkinson, is my favorite author jackson bridge? Is my favorite hero I'll? Allow you the collection of five? Thank you, my former castaway cay atkinson would be delighted to give you that you can also have a luxury item. What would you like? Surely I want solar powered, serve replenishing, fridge, full of italian ice cream with a couple of lipstick signed in oh, so a solar powered fridge, absolutely pack when I screamed, I'm not gonna look and if you want to check the logistics in there. To turn a blind eye, but you ve got ten seconds got, beat emphasis shimmer.
Since you. Surely I'm gonna look away now you do without french what you want. Thank you, it's yours and finally, which one track of the eight one foot asks that you ve shared with us today, but you rush to say from the waves. I think I would take trick and track personnel is sweeping just because I have such a clear picture of her when I hear that played shall collins. Thank you very much for letting us here your design, a disk loan. Thank you for allowing me to speak so some pleasure to talk to you too, greedy Hallo whoop, surely is happy on their island listening to music and choosing which I screamed flavour to me, Next to that, we ve castaway many musicians over the years, including says palma, cotton.
Elton John and Adele, you can hear their programmes if you search threw out desert island discs programme archive org Sounds and you'll also find shelley's. Favorite, author, Kate atkinson in that to the studio manager for today's programme was Andrew garrett and the producer with Sarah tailor. The series editor is John Gouty,
hi, it's hammock how on earth and shouted staff rehab. We wanted to tell you that season, two of all consuming from BBC radio for his hair in this area, will be once again delving into a culture of consumption by examining the services and products that have changed the world. This time, when the king s house, by such a level that madly the idea of just turning a planted, this giant analogue synthesizer running she's, the beauty of it is
I get a chance to understand performance at the highest level and he said connection and the safety cues to your body that it's over and you're safe, I'm much more so join us for the second season of all consuming available on BBC sounds
Transcript generated on 2023-09-04.