“More than anything else, I regard myself as a song interpreter.” Described in his own words, Dick Gaughan has amassed a body of work over forty years ranging from traditional Scottish repertoire to more familiar songs such as “Games People Play”. Needless to say, his own compositions are usually worth hearing – and frequently covered. Dick was born today in 1948.
Folksinger Richard Peter Gaughan aka Dick Gaughan was born in Glasgow and brought up in the Lothian port of Leith. With an Irish father and Gaelic-speaking mother from the Highlands of Scotland, the young Dick was exposed to the music of both cultures from an early age and began play acoustic guitar aged just seven.
Performing on the Lothian folk circuit Dick became acquainted with Shetland fiddler Aly Bain, opting to try his luck as a full-time musician. Living in a “hippy” community in Wimbledon and eking out a living by busking on the tube, Gaughan recorded his debut album, “No More Forever” in 1971 with Bain guesting.
Dick and Bain then joined Cathal McConnell and Robin Morton to form Boys of the Lough, releasing a self-titled debut album in 1972. Returning to solo peformance and guesting with The High Level Ranters, Dick then joined Five Hand Reel for a three year stretch beginning in 1975.
The late 1970s proved to be a troubled time for Dick, with mental health issues brought on by years of life on the road and an over-reliance on alcohol. His 1980 comeback “Handful Of Earth” was more overtly political than before, with the inclusion of songs such as “Both Sides The Tweed” a reaction to the recently-installed Thatcher administration. That stance would then see Dick perform benefits during the Miner’s Strike and chair the Leith Miners’ Support Group.
Gaughan would encounter further issues in 1984, when he lost his voice in mid-concert and was unable to speak or sing, rather bravely documenting his first successful return to the stage on the 1985 release, “Live in Edinburgh”. Meanwhile Billy Bragg’s cover of “Think Again” (from Gaughan’s 1983 release “Different Kind of Love Song”) brought him wider attention.
Dick’s subsequent recorded works have included various collaborations (notably the Clan Alba ensemble) and also ventures away from the standard folk framework into scoring films and composing orchestral pieces. A fascination with computers has also seen Gaughan embrace technology – amongst his listed influences is the architect of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee.
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And here’s some footage of Dick in action: