Fairport star wakes up to his obituary

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the UK's best known folk/rock musicians woke up yesterday to read in The Daily Telegraph that he was dead.

Dave Swarbrick, 58, a violinist and singer formerly with Fairport Convention, had been seriously ill, but is in hospital and on the road to recovery.

The paper ran an obituary of the former Fairport star. It was a generous piece which described Swarbrick as "one of the most influential folk musicians of the 1970s and 1980s". But that was not the point.

Mr Swarbrick had just been transferred from intensive care to a normal ward in Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, after a four-week battle with a serious chest infection.

His wife, Jill, said yesterday she had been swamped with consolation calls following the publication of the obituary. "The phone has been red hot this morning with all the musicians who know him ringing up to find out how he died and to offer their support," she said.

A spokesman for The Daily Telegraph said yesterday: "I have spoken to Mrs Swarbrick this morning and apologised to her, and we will be printing a full apology in Wednesday's paper."

It is understood that the obituary was written after the paper had heard that Mr Swarbrick was seriously ill and then a member of staff said she had heard that he was dead. The report was not checked with the musician's family.

Mr Swarbrick has suffered from the lung disease emphysema for some years, and was in Germany when he was struck by illness.

His Fairport Convention colleague, Dave Pegg, said he was also inundated with calls, and added: "It is a glowing obituary and Dave will be very pleased with what they have said, but it is unbelievable it has been published now."

The most famous obituary error concerned the American writer, Mark Twain, who famously described reports of his death as "much exaggerated". Since then a number of newspapers have made the most feared mistake, including The Independent which recently wrongly reported the death of a Serb journalist following reports from Nato.

The mistaken obituary story took a novel twist earlier this month when an Austrian pianist, Friedrich Gulda, faxed a report of his own death to a news agency. Gulda had forbidden any obituaries to be written about him, saying: "People have thrown so much muck at me while I am alive, I do not want them to chuck it into my grave as well."

But at least Mr Swarbrick now knows that he was thought of as "charismatic and dynamic", and that he could "electrify an audience with a single frenzied sweep of his bow".

To add to the irony, the unnamed obituarist surmises that "Swarbrick would have been happy to die in harness". Maybe so. But he is much happier to be alive.

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