T Ward died unnoticed Dec 18, 2001. One of his most loved songs had
the line "Im not waving, Im drowning"
to distinguish a shout for help from a wave of friendship. One of
his earliest friends in the music business was John Peel who signed
him to his Dandelion label in the early 70s. From there Ward
moved on to Charisma and released a trio of splendid English albums,
Home Thoughts (1973), Mantlepieces (1973) and Escalator (1975). His
sole English hit was also his earliest single, Gaye, a quintessential
pastoral story of love taken for granted then regretted. Much like
how his passing is regretted. So few have heard of his work. The last
time he appeared in the rock press was in a Buried Treasure review
of his Escalator album in Mojo a few years ago.
best compilation of his works is Gaye And Other Stories which collects
20 tracks from these three albums to showcase the talents of Englands
undiscovered storyteller. Ward never wrote a silly love song over
the course of 10 albums. A schoolteacher by profession, he preferred
to use language in a literate manner choosing allegory, juxtaposition,
poetry and romanticism to articulate loneliness, regret, devotion,
everyday chores, the modern world, history and the charms of a rustic
life. His songs never repeated themselves nor relied on hackneyed
phrases or schoolboy cliches. They strive to tell a story with as
much color, prose and detail as could be wrung out of three minutes.
His literate style earned him the nickname, the singing schoolteacher.
eluded this man because Ward was unusually retiring, preferring
to stay at home with his three young children. He only once appeared
on Top Of The Pops when Gaye made it to the Top 10 in England. His
appearance with his extremely long hair, fair complexion and bulky
torso made him an unlikely pop star. For much of the 70s,
Gaye excused himself from touring arguing that his music, which
required much production and musicians to get that old world quality
or marching band atmosphere, was just too complicated to tour with.
But he was really a stay-at-home songwriter. His songs betrayed
that. Scullery was a homily to a housewife and her chores. For Debbie
And Her Friends was about looking after a crippled child. He also
wrote about the aged and Miner for the strikers in 1974.
Ward never borrowed from American rock n roll, the blues
or folk music. His piano-based songwriting was distinctly European.
His melodies were textured and came alive when accompanied by Richard
Hewsons arrangements. Hewson made his mark orchestrating the
pop film, Melody Fair. The American approximation to Ward was the
works of Jimmy Webb.
in 1987, Ward was diagnosed as suffering from the wasting disease,
multiple sclerosis. It effectively ended any hope of a career in
music. He could barely move and was bound in a wheelchair. But fans
and friends who saw him recall none of that bitterness that people
so afflicted would carry. In fact in A Day To Myself, Ward had written
about how insignificant any of his woes must be when standing against
the memory of soldiers who had gone to fight and died alone in a
is unfortunate that someone who had given the greater part of his
young life to writing these love songs and these ballads, should
not have his best albums readily available. We shouldnt be
waving him goodbye. - Michael Cheah
His albums in print are Gaye And Other Stories, his first album
for John Peel, Singer Songwriter Plus and two new compilations Bittersweet
and The Ways Of Love. Or you can write to a longtime fan, Liz Williams,
who can make CD-Rs or minidisc copies with proceeds to Wards
widow. Her address is at PO Box 59, Whitehaven CA26 3GA, UK.