Sandy Denny (1947-78), the Wimbledon songstress who became Britain’s most pre-eminent folk/rock singer-songwriter in the 1970s, died exactly 34 years ago tomorrow, aged just 31.

Born Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny on 6 January 1947 at the Nelson Hospital, Merton Park, she performed with The Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and even Led Zeppelin before becoming a soloist from 1971-77 when she released four albums.

Trained as a classical pianist, Sandy Denny started singing as a child. A pupil at Coombe Girls School in Kingston, she trained afterwards as a nurse at the Royal Brompton Hospital before taking up a place in 1965 at what was then Kingston College of Art, joining the campus folk club, and beginning a singing career on London’s folk club circuit. Her repertoire included both traditional British and American songs.

She first performed at Cecil Sharp House, home of traditional folk music, in December 1966 for a BBC programme. A few months later she signed with Saga Records and dropped her art studies in favour of a full-time musical career.

At the well known Troubadour Club she met a member of The Strawbs and soon joined the band but the following year became lead singer with Fairport Convention, encouraging them to combine traditional folk music with electric rock.

She left in 1969 to develop her own songwriting career and formed the band, Fotheringay. Having returned to the piano as her main instrument, in 1970 and 1971 she was twice voted “Best British Female Singer” by readers of the leading musical paper Melody Maker.

In 1973 she married her boyfriend and producer and recorded a third solo album. Despite her huge success, her songs now stressed sad private preoccupations, possibly due to problems with drink and drugs.

Nevertheless between 1974 and 75 they performed together with Fairport Convention and enjoyed a successful world tour.

In 1977 she recorded her last album and embarked on a final UK tour, ending 27 November at London’s Royalty Theatre. That year she also gave birth to a daughter, her only child.

Then, tragically, while on holiday with her parents and baby in Cornwall in March 1978, she suffered a head injury in a fall from a staircase.

She recovered briefly but on 17 April collapsed at a friend's home and died four days later in Atkinson Morley’s Hospital at Copse Hill.

She was buried on 27 April at Putney Vale Cemetery beside Wimbledon Common.

Her headstone describes her as “The Lady” and when the second of two tribute concerts was held in 2008 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, to mark the 30th anniversary of her death, it was entitled “The Lady: A Tribute to Sandy Denny”.

There have been many musical tributes to her over the years with members of both The Strawbs and Fairport Convention recording songs in her memory and many other artists performing her own songs including Judy Collins, Kate Bush and the late Nina Simone.

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