Linda Thompson is living proof that it is more difficult to be wed to genius than it is to possess it. Her 10-year marriage to the flinty, cynical singer-guitarist Richard Thompson that ended in 1982 was by all accounts, including hers, a tumultuous affair that produced three children, at least four perfect albums of English folk-rock, and enough psychological pain to launch a thousand sensitive singer-songwriters. The difference is that neither Linda nor Richard are sensitive types, at least not in terms of expression. Richard’s genius was (and, on occasion, still is) the way he channeled everyday despair and misanthropy into songs of theatrical brilliance. Linda’s gift was the way she gave voice to those ideas without sentimentalizing them.
Due to a nervous condition, Linda retired from singing in the late ’80s. She resurfaced last year with “Fashionably Late,” an album of quiet folk ballads and art songs that, besides proving her dark, smoky alto is still as expressive as ever, showed she remained a student of the darker side of the human experience. Among the songs of murder and betrayal is a self-penned waltz called “Weary Life,” in which Linda sings, lustfully it almost seems, “it’s better to be single than to be a married wife.”
Her plainspoken honesty has been in evidence on her current world concert tour. In New York, she sang antiwar covers, described a song about a woman who goes to London and becomes a prostitute as “my story, with embellishments,” and called the new Renee Zellweger movie, to which she contributed a song, “total shite” (in the end, they didn’t use the song). Linda’s never been comfortable as a performer, which makes this tour, arriving in Japan at the end of this month, all the more precious since for once she seems to be enjoying her reputation.
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