March 12, 2010 – Lesley Duncan was born in Stockton-on-Tees in England on August 12th 1943.
She left school while only 14 years old. At 19, while working in a London coffee bar, she and her brother were placed on weekly retainers by a music publisher. Within a year Duncan had signed her first recording contract, with EMI, and appeared in the film What a Crazy World.
Her songs were often about life and its problems, “Everything Changes” and “Sing Children Sing”.
Considered one of Britain’s first female singer-songwriters, the song for which she is best known, “Love Song” went on to be covered by more than 150 other artists, including David Bowie and Olivia Newton-John.. Elton John recorded a duet with Duncan of the song, similar to her solo version, for his album Tumbleweed Connection. She appeared onstage with John in a 1974 concert at the Royal Festival Hall to perform the duet once again and the live recording of “Love Song” was included on John’s Here and There album. John described “Love Song” as “one of the very few” songs he did not co-author but included on an album earlier in his career.
This success notwithstanding and despite their receiving critical acclaim, Duncan’s multiple solo albums failed to achieve commercial success.
In addition to writing and singing her own material, Duncan was in wide demand as a session singer in the mid to late 1960s, most notably working with Dusty Springfield from 1964 to 1972, a favour Springfield returned by performing backing vocals for several Duncan recordings. Duncan can in fact be seen on many of the performances featured in the BBC DVD “Dusty at the BBC”.
Duncan again joined Elton John at his request to provide vocals for his 1971 album Madman Across the Water, and in exchange John played piano on her first solo album Sing Children Sing. She also co-wrote three songs with Scott Walker for The Walker Brothers in addition to providing backing vocals for them. She can also be heard on the studio recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Duncan famously contributed backing vocals to one of the top selling albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s 1973 release The Dark Side of the Moon, which was engineered by Alan Parsons. Later, in 1979, she again worked with Parsons, singing lead vocals on the song “If I Could Change Your Mind” for the Alan Parsons Project album Eve, in her final album appearance.
Even though she received a lot of airplay on British radio stations such as BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2, she never achieved great commercial success due in part to her unwillingness to chase stardom, and crippling stage fright.
Lesley died from a cerebrovascular disease on March 12, 2010 at age 66.