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Linda Thompson: Back with a 'Versatile Heart'

Many years after her retirement from music, Linda Thompson has only recently and quietly been releasing albums just as rich as ever.
Many years after her retirement from music, Linda Thompson has only recently and quietly been releasing albums just as rich as ever.

Imagine being a singer and never being sure when you open your mouth whether you will have your voice. For years, Linda Thompson has had a vocal disorder that was first diagnosed as "hysteric dysphonia." Her vocal trouble made her stop singing completely. It took three years to complete her new CD, Versatile Heart.

On Versatile Heart, Thompson spends a majority of the time with her son, Teddy, an accomplished musician and songwriter in his own right. Thompson's reason for recording with him is quite simple: "Making music with your kids is the best possible way to see them. They're not gonna visit you otherwise."

"I'm always anxious to impress Teddy because I love him, because I admire him so much. And he's a quixotic talent. He's an amazing musician," Thompson says. "...I really am inspired by him."

Early in her career, Thompson battled against losing her voice, one that many say helped define the British folk-scene scene.

"I was 25, I was pregnant, and we were making a record and I couldn't breathe, " Thompson says. "I sort of put it down to being pregnant. It started off physical and then it became mental and I just got into this circle, this vicious circle. I know I'd have to sing and I'd tense up."

In her treatments, she tried everything from screaming therapy and vocal therapy to just regular therapy. Eventually, she decided to give it all up and opened an antique jewelry shop in the late '80s.

The tug of performance and singing was regenerated in the late '90s, and in 2002, Thompson released Fashionably Late, featuring her son Teddy and daughter Kamila, as well as her former husband, Richard. But still, she has to be careful.

"I just wish I could jump up on stage with my son, but you know I can't do that because I constrict a lot," Thompson explains. "But, you know, that's the great thing about being a human being: We rationalize. And I had to rationalize it and say, 'Well, I can't sing, so I'll write songs instead.'"

Nowadays, Thompson takes it easy when she records. Her backing musicians are understanding and patient, but, like the audiences that forgive her vocal struggles in the rare live setting, getting to listen to Thompson's rich voice is well worth the wait.

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