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June Tabor

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June Tabor
June Tabor at Sidmouth Folkweek, 2010
Background information
Born 31 December 1947 (1947-12-31) (age 72)
Origin Warwick, England
Genres English Folk
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1972 – present
Labels Topic Records

June Tabor was born on December 31 1947 in Warwick, England. She is an English folk singer.

Early life

June Tabor wanted to sing after she heard an Anne Briggs record called Hazards of Love in 1965.
"I went and locked myself in the bathroom for a fortnight and drove my mother mad. I learned the songs on that EP (extended play record) note for note, twiddle for twiddle. That's how I started singing. If I hadn't heard her I'd have probably done something entirely different."[1]

She went to St Hugh's College, Oxford University. In 1968 she was on the TV show University Challenge,[2] as captain of the college team. She joined the Heritage Society at Oxford University. She sang with a group called "Mistral". One of her first recordings was in 1972 on a collection called Stagfolk Live.[3] She became famous in 1976 when she made the album Silly Sisters with Maddy Prior. She also made her first solo album, Airs and Graces in 1976. She recorded again with Prior, this time using the name Silly Sisters for their act together. In 1977 guitar player Martin Simpson worked with her in the recording studio for three albums. He moved to America in 1987. (Simpson has come back from America to be a guest player on her albums in the 2000s.) After he left, she worked with piano player Huw Warren.

Tabor stopped singing after many years as a performer. She worked as a librarian[4][5][6] .[7] With her husband David Taylor she ran a restaurant called "Passepartout" in Penrith, Cumbria, England. She returned to performing in the 1990s.

Solo work

In 1990, June Tabor made an album with the folk-rock band The Oyster Band called Freedom and Rain. She went on tour with the Oyster Band. A live recording from the tour was made into an album by the Rykodisc label in 1991. In 1992 singer Elvis Costello [8] wrote "All this Useless Beauty" just for Tabor. She recorded the song on Angel Tiger. Costello didn't record it himself until 1996, on his album All This Useless Beauty.

In 1983 June Tabor sang the title song for the BBC TV series "Spyship".[9] In 1997 she was on Ken Russell's TV show, "In Search of English Folk Song" [10] shown on Channel 4. Tim Winton, author of the 2001 novel Dirt Music, made a selection of music to go with his novel. The CD Dirt Music (2001) includes "He Fades Away" by June Tabor, a sad song about the death of a miner. The song was on her 1994 CD Against the Streams. In 2002, at the "Passchendale Peace Concert" [11] in Flanders, Tabor shared the stage with Coope Boyes and Simpson. On 30th June 2006 BBC Radio 3 broadcast "Night Waves" to remember the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It was broadcast live, with World War I songs sung by June Tabor.

Over the years she has worked in various styles including jazz and art song. She usually has a very plain and simple sound with a sad feeling to it. Her 2003 album An Echo of Hooves went back to the traditional ballad style. Many people said it was a great album. Allmusic said it was "A stunning jewel in a remarkable career, and one of the best things Tabor’s ever released." Always (2005) is a boxed set of four CDs, with songs from her whole career. It has many rare recordings.

Work with other people

On 24th October 2003 Tabor appeared on Later With Jools Holland (BBC TV),[12] singing "Hughie Graeme". This was later put on a DVD of the series. Folk Britannia was the name of a concert at the Barbican centre, and a TV mini-series (February 2006, repeated in October). She sang "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" at the Barbican, under the heading "Daughters of Albion". Tabor sang one song on Ashley Hutchings' album Street Cries (2001). She also sang on a collection of folk musicians singing songs by the Beatles - Rubber Folk (2006). She sang Lennon's "In My Life" a cappella (with out any instruments).

The way June treats songs is different. For example she often sings traditional songs with just a piano. On the album Singing The Storm (2000) she sings with Savourna Stevenson's harp, and Danny Thompson's bass. In May 2004 she performed as part of "The Big Session" and sang Love Will Tear Us Apart as a duet with John Jones of The Oyster Band. In 1992, The Wire voted her song "Queen Among the Heather" one of the "Top 50 Rhythms of all Time".

She also has a sense of humour and fun. This can be seen in her work with Les Barker's The Mrs Ackroyd Band which performs his funny songs. Tabor has sung on three of their albums. In 1990 on the album Oranges and Lemmings she sang "The Trains of Waterloo", a funny version of the folk song "The Plains of Waterloo" in a duet with Martin Carthy. In 1994 on Gnus and Roses she sang "The January June", which made fun of her sad and serious singing style. In 2003 on the album Yelp! she sang "There's a hole in my bodhran", to the tune of "There's a Hole in my Bucket". She sang two songs on Beat The Retreat, a tribute to Richard Thompson.


Duo with Maddy Prior

Solo albums

Recordings with The Oyster Band

Recordings with The Mrs Ackroyd Band

  • Oranges and Lemmings (1990)
  • Gnus and Roses (1994)
  • Yelp! (2003)


  • Anthology (1993)
  • The Definitive Collection (2003)



Other websites