Roy Hollingworth

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The Independent Online

Roy Hollingworth, journalist, singer, guitarist and composer: born Derby 12 April 1949; married 1999 Anthea Yeomans; died Kingston upon Thames, Surrey 9 March 2002.

Roy Hollingworth's work as a singer/songwriter was much admired and favourably compared to his idols Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. But it was as a feature writer with Melody Maker that Hollingworth is best remembered. His whimsical humour and passion for music combined to produce some of the best writing to grace the MM during the paper's heyday.

A former reporter with the Derby Evening Telegraph, Hollingworth joined Britain's foremost weekly music paper in the summer of 1970. One of his first assignments was to meet Jimi Hendrix before his Isle of Wight festival appearance, one of the last interviews Hendrix gave before his death. Hollingworth went on to develop a unique approach to music journalism, in which he clearly empathised with the artists he wrote about. But this didn't prevent him expressing strongly held opinions in a forthright way. When he reviewed Pink Floyd's best-selling album Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 he described much of it as "diabolically uninteresting" and posed the question, "Whatever happened to Side One? Nine months in the making and only one good side?"

More to Hollingworth's tastes were artists who used poetry to express their feelings, rather than sound effects. Leonard Cohen was a favourite and, when Hollingworth talked to the composer about his 1970 album Songs of Love and Hate, Cohen confided that he was so stressed he wanted to quit the music business. Hollingworth also broke the news that Ray Davies planned to split up the Kinks and in-depth interviews with his fellow soccer fan Rod Stewart revealed Stewart's growing dissatisfaction with the Faces. In another scoop for the MM, Hollingworth tracked the elusive David Bowie to a Paris railway station in 1971.

Hollingworth was appointed Melody Maker's New York editor in 1972 and given the arduous task of overseeing the paper's 40-page American edition. This meant dealing with recalcitrant print unions and the murky underworld of US magazine distribution.

Despite these pressures he enjoyed living in Manhattan and found celebrity status in Greenwich Village as the resident English rock writer. He met and befriended John Lennon and wrote enthusiastically about the new wave artists Patti Smith and the New York Dolls. Hollingworth also appeared in the video for Alice Cooper's 1972 hit "Elected" but only as a bystander. He was growing impatient to swap roles and become a performer himself.

Hollingworth had been singing and playing in bands since he was a teenager in Derby and resumed performing as a solo artist in the Village, where he became known as "the darling of the decadent underground". On one memorable occasion he performed at the Mercer Arts Centre in front of Bowie and Lou Reed. John Lennon told him later, "Cut ya hair and get a record deal, Roy!"

Hollingworth decided to leave the MM to concentrate on becoming a full-time performer. He sang in bars and clubs from Los Angeles to Chicago and Toronto. While living in the Bronx he formed a regular backing group called Roy & the Rams. But it was hard to gain acceptance from a record industry that saw him still as a rock critic. Back in Europe he toured Germany and eventually recorded a set of bitter-sweet songs for the Bellaphon label in Frankfurt. Martin Turner, former Wishbone Ash bass guitarist, produced the album, called Roy Hollingworth in the Flesh, which was remastered and reissued in 2000. Martin played keyboards and Robin Berlyn from the Dutch group the Fatal Flowers played lead guitar.

Hollingworth wrote and sang all the songs – the critic Michael Watts commented, "William Blake gets a guitar." Other reviewers enthused, "At last an album of real songs, tales of love and disorder balanced with slick humour. He sounds like an English Lou Reed."

The album represented the culmination of his life's work as a frustrated composer. Until he was recently taken ill, Hollingworth had been busy teaching guitar, writing songs and planning more "live" gigs. However, many still believe his best work was for the Melody Maker. His former colleague Chris Charlesworth says:

Roy excelled as a music journalist. When he liked someone, he really liked them and wanted everyone else to share his enthusiasm. He loved to champion the underdog as well as writing about famous faces. Others later adopted his style of music journalism, notably on the NME. There was a real sense of adventure in his writing and there might not have been the likes of Nick Kent if Roy hadn't opened the door to this fearless style of music writing. Nick was brilliant, but Roy was the first.

Chris Welch