Vin Garbutt was one of English folk music's most respected "non-stars" of the late 20th century and the early 21st. Born Vincent Paul Garbutt in Southbank, Middlesbrough, of mixed Anglo-Irish parentage, he became a folk music enthusiast while in his early teens and began frequenting clubs while still at school in the early '60s. He pursued the music part-time as a performer, focusing in part on the sounds relevant to the Irish side of his ancestry. Turning professional at age 21, within a couple of years he was ready to record, cutting his first album, The Valley of Tees, in 1972 for Bill Leader's Trailer label. He established himself in the '70s as one of England's foremost topical songwriters, with a special emphasis on environmental subjects long before that concern was a major political focus in Europe's politics.
There are few subjects that he didn't address in his songs, including workers' rights, fetal experimentation, a strong anti-abortion stance, and other matters usually left to the news pages, and part of the secret of his success was his ability to meld such serious repertory with a very visible smattering of overtly fun material. His unwillingness to compromise his sensibilities or his songs cut him off from access to the major record labels, a situation that seemed to suit Garbutt just fine -- he became a "star" act by denying the media exposure, the trappings, or even the rudimentary image associated with stardom, and made albums that were impressive without being expensive to make.
The major labels scarcely knew his name, and his discography isn't huge, but it is highlighted by records such as such as the stridently anti-abortion Little Innocents (1983), which included his stirring interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's "If." Garbutt was a major draw among young audiences across Europe for more than 20 years and into the new century, and one of the top folk artists in England. He counted among his fans some of England's leading veteran rock figures as well as American singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. In 2001, Garbutt received the BBC 2's Best Live Act at the radio network's folk award presentation, in which he was also nominated for Folk Singer of the Year. Vin Garbutt died in June 2017 at the age of 69.