b. 22 February 1938, Leeds, Yorkshire, England, d. 24 December 2002, Monmouth, South Wales. A pioneer of the English form of the traditional French chanson, the under-appreciated Thackray became better known for his more offbeat comic material. Raised in Leeds, Thackray studied modern languages at Durham University and began his working life as a secondary school teacher. He was exposed to the music of the chansonniers during teaching placements in Lille and Algeria, forging a songwriting partnership with Georges Brassens. Thackray returned to Leeds in the early 60s, working during the day as a teacher and spending his nights playing in local folk clubs. He appeared on the BBC regional television magazine Look North and the late-night show The Braden Beat, and made regular appearances on That’s Life and The David Frost Show.
Thackray’s distinctive clipped intonation enhanced his repertoire of comic, romantic, traditional and serious songs, with figures of authority earning regular ridicule from his barbed pen. He signed a recording contract with EMI Records and released his debut album, The Last Will And Testament Of Jake Thackray, in 1967. Far from his first performing job at the City Palace Of Varieties, in Leeds, Thackray went on to tour the USA, Europe, Canada, Africa and other parts of the world. Unlike other folk performers who, having achieved a degree of commercial status, left the folk scene, Thackray could still be seen playing small clubs, while filling engagements at the London Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall, and other large venues fulfilling the demand for old favourites such as ‘Jumble Sale’, ‘Bantam Cock’, ‘Sister Josephine’, and his nearly hit ‘Lah-Di-Dah’. His work was treated with greater artistic merit in Europe than his native England, a source of immense frustration to an artist who had performed with several of the great French chansonniers. His final years were spent as a virtual recluse at his home in Monmouth.