Shirley Collins was born in Sussex and learned some of her first folks songs from her grandfather and her Aunt Grace.
She left school at 17 and went to London in 1952 to train as a teacher and it was there that she first became immersed in what was the emerging folk revival.
With her sister Dolly she made a clutch of wonderful albums (Billy Bragg said they were his first and most powerful introduction into English Music) and then she went on to work with people like Davey Graham / The Incredible String Band / The Etchingham Steam Band / The Albion Band / Peter Bellamy…
She has made something like 30 albums both as a solo artist and with other performers and groups and her influence on, and contribution to, the English Folk Scene has been immense. She was also a folk song collector, who worked with Alan Lomax on his collection of Appalachian music -later released as a book, America Over The Water.
She has been described as having ‘the quintessential English folk voice’, which is probably as good a description of Shirley’s singing as you will ever get.
A short but fine biography by David Suff
Shirley’s own website
Van Dieman’s Land
The Albion band – poor quality but worth watching