SHINE A LIGHT – Snapshot of Stockton born singer & songwriter Lesley Duncan (1943-2010)

Previous Snapshot posts have featured North East musicians linked to international artists. South Shields born Kathy Stobbart on a festival bill with Radiohead, also from Shields, Jack Brymer, and his day in the studio with The Beatles recording A Day in the Life, plus Newcastle born Animal bassist Chas Chandler, who managed Jimi Hendrix and Slade.

This post focuses on another North East musician linked to three of the biggest names in music today – Elton John, David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

Lesley Duncan was born 12 August 1943, by her teenage years she had travelled down to London with her brother Jimmy to work in the music business. Jimmy went on to achieve production and song writing credits including recording South Shields band The Answer who feature in the previous post with Vincent Edwards.

In 1964 Jimmy wrote Rosalyn, the first Pretty Things single, reaching #41 in the UK charts. The track was covered by David Bowie, appearing on his 1973 album Pin Ups.

The first London stop for Lesley was working in a cafe, then taking her songs to record companies – EMI recognised potential and gave her a contract. She wrote songs for a number of performers including The Walker brothers.

Her big break came with her track, Love Song. Elton John picked it up for his album Tumbleweed Connection in 1970 and Duncan provided backing vocals on the record produced by Gus Dudgeon. The song went on to live a new life being covered by many artists including David Bowie, Barry White and Olivia Newton-John.

Through the ‘70s she released singles in the UK and USA with a number of record companies notably CBS, Mercury and Parlophone. On some of her records backing vocals were provided by Dusty Springfield – in return for featuring on her records.

Lesley was still in great demand as a session singer and provided backing vocals for Pink Floyd on their 1973 multi-million selling album Dark Side of the Moon.

Worth checking out is Lesley’s 1971 appearance on the BBC Old Grey Whistle Test, singer & songwriters playing Chain of Love.

Summer ’73  she was in America opening for Daryl Hall & John Oates at the Roxy in California, and featured on the Reading Festival weekend bill including Rory Gallagher, The Faces, Steve Harley, Status Quo and from the North East – Lindisfarne and Beckett. Lesley played on the Sunday with headliners Genesis.

Duncan also released several critically acclaimed albums, despite radio play failed to break through to any commercial success, and suffered from low sales. She continued providing backing vocal for a number of British artists including Donovan, Kiki Dee and Ringo Starr. She can even be heard in the chorus on the Jesus Christ Superstar album.

In 1976 Lesley signed to MCA in America and played a short tour there releasing the album Moon Bathing, which again featured Elton John on piano.

Duncan appeared on a 1979 album by the Alan Parsons Project where she sang If I Could Change Your Mind. Parsons being the engineer on the earlier mentioned Pink Floyds album Dark Side of the Moon, Lesley added her voice to Time, Eclipse and Brain Damage.

By the ‘80s Lesley had retired from the music business and was content living a more private life, she moved to Cornwall then finally the Isle of Mull in Scotland. As for her albums, the original masters were lost in a fire, but copies have been found and re-releases are now available.

Sadly after a long illness Lesley Duncan died on 12 March 2010.

Links to previous Snapshots:

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND – snapshot of musician & teacher Jack Brymer (1915–2003) | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

ALL THAT JAZZ – snapshot from the life of professional musician Kathy Stobart (1925 – 2014). | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

HOME NEWCASTLE – snapshot from the life of musician, manager and record producer Chas Chandler 1938-96. | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  May 2021.