Linda Lewis, singer with 5-octave range, dies at 72

Linda Lewis, the British singer-songwriter whose career spanned more than four decades, has died at the age of 72, her family has said.

Her sister Dee Lewis Clay shared the news on social media Wednesday night. 

“It is with the greatest sadness and regret we share the news that our beloved beautiful sister Linda Lewis passed away today peacefully at her home,” she wrote. “The family asks that you respect our privacy and allow us to grieve at this heartbreaking time.”

Known for a five-octave vocal range, which saw her compared to Minnie Riperton and Mariah Carey, Lewis enjoyed both solo success in the 1970s and a long career of providing backing vocals for artists including David Bowie and Rod Stewart.

The Guardian writes that she was born Linda Ann Fredericks in West Ham in 1950, attended stage school and dabbled in acting, appearing as a screaming fan in the first Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night in 1964. When she signed to Polydor, she adopted Lewis as her surname in honour of singer Barbara Lewis. Her sisters, Dee Lewis and Shirley Lewis, also singers, and their mother would all later use the surname too.

A self-taught guitarist and keyboard player, she appeared at the first Glastonbury festival in 1970 and had four top-40 hits throughout the next decade – the first coming with Rock-a-Doodle-Doo which reached No 15 in the UK in 1973.

Among the other big names for whom she provided backing vocals were Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Rick Wakeman, Joan Armatrading and Jamiroquai.

Her song “Old Smokey” was sampled by rapper Common in his 2005 hit “Go!”, which was produced by Kanye West. She also collaborated with Basement Jaxx on track “Close Your Eyes”.

She continued to perform until the end, with her last track “Earthling”, a collaboration with UK band the Paracosmos, released in March this year.

“When I look back, I realise I’ve lived an extraordinarily rich life,” Lewis wrote in her memoirs. “Would I do it all again, given a chance? No. Would I do some of it again? Certainly.”


Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date