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
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
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

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering