Our Top 10 Richard Thompson Songs list presents 10 songs from one of the most interesting and well respected songwriters in classic rock history. Richard Thompson has sustained a long musical career in which he has delivered a body of work filled with songs of substance that define the art of songwriting at its highest level. Before embarking on a solo career, Richard Thompson served as a founding member of Fairport Convention when the band formed in 1967. After spending a few years with Fairport Convention developing his songwriting skills from 1967 to 1971, Richard Thompson left the group to begin a solo career.
Richard Thompson released his first solo album in 1972 entitled Henry the Human Fly. After the release of his first solo record, Richard Thompson would put his solo career on hold as he and vocalist Linda Peters who he would eventually marry, would record together releasing six straight Richard and Linda Thompson albums. Eventually, the marriage between Richard and Linda ended. Richard Thompson would resume his solo career in 1983 with the release of the album Hand of Kindness. From that point on, Richard Thompson would continue to release solo albums on a continuous basis. His most recent solo album was released in 2018 entitled 13 Rivers.
Throughout his fifty plus year career Richard Thompson had released an overwhelming abundance of material. With a catalog of so many albums, picking just ten songs to present some of his best work is quite challenging. So think of this as just a sampling of his solo work and his material recorded with Linda Thompson. None of his Fairport Convention material is listed here. There is a separate article for those songs.
# 10 – Keep Your Distance
We open up our Top 10 Richard Thompson songs list with the fantastic song “Keep Your Distance.” The song was released on Richard Thompson’s sixth solo album entitled Rumor and Sigh. The album was released in 1991. The album stands as one of the finest records Richard Thompson ever released. The song “Keep Your Distance,” delivers a powerful driving chorus backed by a great string and horn section that wrap brilliantly around Thompson’s majestic vocal performance.
# 9 – Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
How many times have we all used that phrase? Talk about writing a song based on a somewhat universal theme. However, upon listening closer to the lyrics, the song has a completely different meaning from what one may think. This is a song about war, and the “Dad,” in the title refers to Baghdad. “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” was released on the album Sweet Warrior. The record was released in 2007. This one is dark. The song was also used in an episode of the great television show, Sons Of Anachary.
# 8 – Wall Of Death
Continuing with our Top 10 Richard Thompson songs list we turn to the Richard & Linda Thompson Shoot Out The Lights album. The album is considered to be the duo’s masterpiece. It also stands as the couple’s last album recorded together. As always, songwriters deliver some of their best work during hard times. As their marriage was ending, the couple turned pain into art leaving their fans with an album to treasure. The album was released in 1982.
# 7 – Persuasion
There are some songs that just leave you speechless. This duet between Richard Thompson and his son Teddy will touch your heart. The song was written by Richard Thompson and Tim Finn of Crowded House fame. The version here was released on Richard Thompson’s 1988 live album entitled Celtschmerz.
# 6 – Shoot out the Lights
One more time on this Richard Thompson songs list we turn to the great Richard & Linda Thompson album entitled Shoot Out The Lights. At number six we present the album’s amazing title cut “Shoot Out The Lights.” The song’s dark opening guitar lines present a cinematic scene that sets up a brilliant piece of music that stands as one of the highlights of Richard Thompson’s career.
# 5 – Turning Of The Tide
In 1988. Richard Thompson released a brilliant album entitled Amnesia. The album was produced by Mitchell Froom who is one of rock greatest producers having worked with so many greats such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow and so many more. “Turning Of The Tide,” was the album’s opening track. The song’s driving beat and addicting melody draped in a rock meets rockabilly groove is such a joy to listen to.
# 4 – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
This is probably the song that most Richard Thompson fans chose as their favourite Richard Thompson song of all time. The song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” was released on Richard Thompson’s Grammy nominated album Rumor and Sigh. Thompson’s acoustic guitar playing on the song was to die for. This is such a brilliant piece of music that audiences go crazy over when he performs it live.
# 3 – I Feel So Good
The great Richard Thompson song “I Feel So Good,” presents Richard Thompson’s sense of humor on the dark side just a s bit. It’s a place Richard Thompson had visited frequently in his work. How could you not love a song with a chorus featuring a line such as “I Feel So Good, I’m going to break somebody’s heart tonight.” This was another great song from the Rumor and Sigh album.
# 2 -Tear-Stained Letter
As we get closer to the number one spot on our top 10 Richard Thompson songs list. we add one more upbeat tune to the presentation. The great rocking song “Tear Stained Letter,” was released on Richard Thompson’s Hand Of Kindness album. The song’s groove falls somewhere between the genres of rock and zydeco. It an exuberant song released on his first solo album after he broke up with his wife Linda Thompson. I love this one!
# 1 – Beeswing
We close out our Top 10 Richard Thompson songs list with a wonderful ballad that stands as one of the most beautiful and romantic folk songs ever written. With a melody that sounds like it stems from his Fairport Convention days and a lyric that sounds like something Harry Chapin would have written, Richard Thompson delivered a real gem with this one.