Roy Bailey, MBE 20/10/1935 – 20/11/2019
Roy Wilcock has written a personal tribute to musician Roy Bailey who visited Quaker Tapestry Museum last year
We have lost another folk music icon, a man who has given so much pleasure to me personally and to fans all over the world. Roy Bailey was a brilliant singer and interpreter of other people’s songs with his gentle yet powerful delivery, but he was more than that.
From his early days of the folk revival in the 1960’s, Roy has been the archetypal protest singer, instrumental in bringing political and social issues into our collective stream of consciousness, especially during his collaboration in concerts with Tony Benn. He was a consummate communicator and a teacher able to prick our bubble of self-satisfaction. Just this year his powerful singing of a Rob Johnson song accompanied a short film about the Grenfell disaster.
Roy was full of passion for social justice, he was committed, brave, humorous, tender and also compassionate with bags full of integrity. Roy would not suffer fools lightly, and that includes many of our bombastic politicians, but he also had a generosity of spirit which he clearly demonstrated in Kendal in July 2018. Roy donated his time to sing at a fund raiser for our local Manna House charity, to help finance a winter shelter for the homeless.
He sang in a large church which was crammed full of people, many of whom had no idea who Roy Bailey was, there were only one or two ‘folkies’ in attendance. Despite his obvious physical frailty, he sang with passion and after a couple of songs Roy had them in the palm of his hands. He enthralled the audience for two hours with his songs and stories, it was magical and will be my lasting memory of Roy at his most charming yet lightly acerbic best.
Like myself he was never a religious man but we both admire the ethos of Quakerism. He was knowledgeable about their achievements throughout history, so the following day I was in a position to escort him and his musical companion, Marc Block, on a private tour of the Quaker Tapestry Museum. This revealed to me another of his many positive traits, even at 83years of age he was still keen to learn and took great interest in the stories I was able to tell him. Latterly, like most of us, he did stumble slightly to find the words or names he needed to use, but he still had a great mental capacity.
The political leanings of Roy Bailey, Ewen MacColl and Eric Bogle are probably the three artists who encouraged me and many others to sing folk music. There are many tributes and obituaries in the national press but in my own mind it is the rich legacy of excellent albums left to us by Roy which are his own monument to posterity. Thank you for the memories, and for your contribution in trying to make this a better world to live in.