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Linda Thompson Can’t Sing Her New Songs. Her Solution? ‘Proxy Music.’

Hewing to character, the Thompson matriarch kept things light during the interview, regardless of topic. “I just can’t take things too seriously, unless they truly, truly are,” she said. “People are riddled with angst about not very much, I find.”

She maintains an equally philosophical attitude toward her dysphonia. “When you have something like this, you tell yourself, ‘Well, at least it’s not cancer,’ just as, I suppose people with cancer say, ‘Well, at least I’m not dead.’”

For the interview, Thompson spoke for an hour by video call from her home in London (followed by some email exchanges). And though her voice frequently creaked, it did so in a way that suggested the warm floors of a long lived-in, and well-loved, home.

Over the years, her will to push through her circumstances has been tested enough times to end the creative life of many. She credits part of her fortitude to the “just get on with it” attitude of her post-World War II generation in Britain. It may help that the music that first inspired her boasts a historic lineage. Growing up in Glasgow, she gravitated toward Scottish aires and laments, sometimes accompanied by a famously divisive local instrument.

“I love the bag pipes!” she declared. “That’s how my parents knew there was something seriously wrong with me.”

Her singing voice suited the austerity of the sound, marked by a tone so tawny, and a character so sturdy, it required little ornamentation. Moving to London, she sang in folk clubs where she met, and became best friends, with Sandy Denny, who died in 1978. “Sandy had the most ridiculously beautiful voice I’ve ever heard, even though she smoked around 100 cigarettes a day,” she said.

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