Lesley Duncan: Singer and songwriter who worked with Elton John and Pink Floyd

Lesley Duncan was a pioneering singer-songwriter best known for her composition "Love Song", which was recorded by various artists including Elton John, Peggy Lee, David Bowie, Olivia Newton John and Dionne Warwick.

Born in Stockton on Tees, she came to London in the mid-1960s and became one of the first female singer song writers of the pop era. Her early recordings, on labels such as Parlophone, Mercury and RCA, and including "Tell Me" and "See That Guy", attracted positive attention within the industry but failed to generate meaningful sales. During this time and throughout the next two decades she worked with other female artists and friends such as Dusty Springfield, Madeleine Bell, Kay Garner, Vicky Brown and Kiki Dee as a successful session singer. This close-knit group evolved a new type of American-influenced backing vocals for each other's recordings and for leading artists of the day. Lesley's distinctive vocals can be heard on many hit records throughout the '70s and '80s, including Elton John's Madman Across the Water, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Black Flower by the original Nirvana and Ringo Starr's Goodnight Vienna.

Public recognition came in the early '70s when Elton John, whom she had known and worked with for many years, recorded her "Love Song" on his Tumbleweed Connection album with Duncan singing harmonies. Signing to CBS she released the albums Sing Children Sing and Earth Mother, working not only with Elton John but with other leading musicians such as Chris Spedding, Tristan Fry, Andy Bown, Terry Cox and her producer and first husband Jimmy Horowitz.

Duncan was a gregarious, thoughtful and intelligent woman, her lyrics demonstrating her commitment to social-action issues, conservation and spiritual beliefs, including a strong interest in Buddhism and the peace movement. Earth Mother was dedicated to Friends of the Earth and reflected her passionate belief in preserving nature and the environment. Also buried within the lyrics of several of her compositions were more hidden references to close friends and to her much-loved sons Sam and Joe.

Three subsequent albums – Everything Changes, Moonbathing and Maybe it's Lost – continued to build a cult following but lacked big commercial sales. Duncan's own interest in the music industry faded in favour of a more normal life in the countryside with her second husband, Tony Cox, in Cornwall, Oxfordshire and later Scotland. Cox – himself a highly regarded musician and producer – encouraged her on a couple of special projects such as a reworking of the Bob Dylan number "Masters of War" and a powerful version of "If I Could Change Your Mind" on the Alan Parson album Dammed if I Do. In 1979 she agreed to re-record "Sing Children Sing" with Kate Bush, Phil Lynott and Pete Townsend for the International Year of the Child. It generated considerable airplay and made it to the fringes of the charts.

Duncan's heart, however, was firmly rooted in her new life in the countryside, including her voluntary work for Oxfam, photography and dedicated walking of the entourage of dogs she and Cox accumulated. Her warm-hearted nature, great sense of humour and generous spirit endeared her to a wide array of friends around the world. Life in her final home on the Isle of Mull generated a whole new network of friends largely unaware of her past existence in the pop world – or her still considerable worldwide following on numerous websites dedicated to her music. She was aware and appreciative of this constant and continued interest in her work but was never tempted to capitalise on it.

Richard Stanley



Lesley Duncan, singer and songwriter: born Stockton-on-Tees 12 August 1943; married firstly Jimmy Horovitz (marriage dissolved; two sons), secondly Tony Cox; died 12 March 2010.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions