When Steeleye Span ended their most recent tour with a sold-out show at Cadogan Hall in London, they began it with The Green Man, a song about environmental concerns written by their former guitarist Bob Johnson that had been lost for 40 years and never performed or recorded until 2023. It was a poignant reminder of the key role that Johnson, who has died aged 79, played in Steeleye’s lengthy history as a band that took folk-rock to the charts and into large concert halls around the world.
Johnson was a rock guitarist with a background in blues and folk, and he fused those influences to provide new melodies or arrangements for epic traditional ballads such as Thomas the Rhymer, Long Lankin or Tam Lin that became crucial to Steeleye’s sound and success.
He joined Steeleye Span in 1972 at the suggestion of the band’s fiddle player, Peter Knight, during what seemed to be a difficult time for the group. Two of their most distinguished and popular members, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Carthy, had just left, and Johnson was then largely unknown, as was the new bass player, Rick Kemp. Their arrival, as their singer Maddy Prior said, “changed it completely – we became much more of a rock band”.
Read full article: Bob Johnson obituary | Folk music | The Guardian