Dory Previn Has Died
I hadn’t heard Dory Previn had died until I read this obituary in The Guardian this morning. And I hadn’t realised how old she was: 86. In rock music, ten years older than Leonard Cohen is pretty old…
Unlike Len, Dory’s music is deeply unfashionable these days. But like Len she was listened to in the seventies by those – like me – who were keen to hear a wide range of singer-songwriters baring their souls and finding some sort of universal echo in the minutiae of their individual lives.
A lot of the stuff coming out of that period was drivel, of course. Self-obsessed, self-satisfied, stuck tediously in the personal – or lost in some doomed attempt to sound poetic.
Dory largely avoided those traps. It was different – particularly for the adolescent boy I was then – to hear songs from the perspective of an older woman, dumped by a husband moving on to a younger model. The song ‘Beware Of Young Girls’ from On My Way To Where, about André and Mia Farrow, still sounds strikingly raw below its light surface, an intrusion on real hurt.
The album I bought back in the day and am most familiar with is Reflections In A Mud Puddle from 1971. Listening again today, probably for the first time in ten years, is a very interesting experience. There’s a big band, with full string section and horns, very much drawing on her earlier film soundtrack experience; not ground-breaking, certainly not hip, then or now – but effective and engaging. The key, though, is her voice: high in the mix, not that good technically, unforced, undemonstrative, convincing. And quite a range of songs: ‘Doppleganger’ is rather like Mick Jagger ending ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ by telling you he’s been talking about himself; the side-long suite ‘Taps, Tremors and Time Steps’ blends – not entirely successfully, but quite listenably – story lines about the death of her father, the airship Hindenburg crashing, and an earthquake.
So, not the strongest recommendation I’ve ever given, but Dory Previn definitely deserves more of an audience than she’s currently got. If you’re of my vintage and there’s an old album or two lurking in your rack, dust them off for old time’s sake and some pleasant surprises; and you youngsters, head for You Tube, as you do – here’s a starter:
(from Eden On The Line)