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‘Roll on, Tom’: Special send-off for folk musician

Celebration at Cecil Sharp House after influential Tom Paley, who was 89, died last month following a short illness

27 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Mr Paley’s son, Ben Paley, was among those who performed at the Cecil Sharp House tribute

IT WAS standing room only at the wake of American folk musician Tom Paley at Cecil Sharp House on Tuesday as hundreds gathered to bid their farewells and pick up their instruments for a fitting tribute to the long-time Angel resident.

Singer, guitarist and fiddle player Mr Paley was a regular performer at the arts centre in Camden. The 89-year-old hailed from New York where, after a stint as a mathematician at Yale, he became a founding member of The New Lost City Ramblers – a band Bob Dylan credited as an influence on his music.

Mr Paley’s friend Norman Elvin, an Islington resident who he regularly met up with

Mr Paley moved to London in the 1960s after rejecting the communist witchhunt under the American senator Joseph McCarthy. He had lived in a flat in Angel for more than 45 years and was a regular at the Sunday night folk music sessions at the Shakespeare’s Head pub, behind Sadler’s Wells.

He died last month following a short illness and his funeral service was held at Golders Green crematorium before the raucous celebration of his life at Cecil Sharp House.

Mr Paley’s son, Ben Paley, a fiddle player, took to the stage alongside guitarist Robin Gillan and his father’s friend from New York, Joe Locker. They played “old time” songs that Tom was famous for which recalled the poverty of the great depression and the American South.

Tom Paley moved to London in the 1960s and lived in a flat in Angel for more than 45 years

A large sign read “Roll on, Roll on, Tom” at the back of the stage – a nod to the lyrics of folk music legend Woody Guthrie who Tom once played with early on his career.

“It was beautiful, I wanted to celebrate his life and it was a nice send-off,” said friend Anna Lucas who regularly played with Mr Paley for seven years at the Shakespeare’s Head.

“What I remember most was his humour, he had a lot of charm and was a bit of a ladies’ man. One of my favourite things he did was, he would suddenly stop playing to pet the pub cat,” she added.


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