Rolling Stone called him “the greatest guitarist in British folk rock” — a genre he helped invent with the founding of Fairport Convention in 1967, when he was 18. He went on to sing duets of chillingly harmonic beauty with his now ex-wife, Linda Thompson. But Richard Thompson’s solo tune “1952 Vincent” wins the prize for fusing his sound and storytelling into a glorious example of what one guy can accomplish with just a guitar, a voice, an imagination and a set of astonishingly nimble fingers. A ballad about a ne’er-do-well teen with a fetish for fast bikes and redheaded, leather-clad girls, “1952 Vincent” takes you to the emotional edge of love and theft, then soars right over it. Why a Vincent Black Lightning? It’s a specialty English motorcycle — fewer than 30 were made in 1952 — which makes it “an object of myth,” Thompson said in an interview, “a rather wonderful, rare and beautiful beast.” It’s fitting, then, that the song he wrote about it has become an object of cult adoration.
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