Women’s History Month Spotlight: 6 Essential Songs from Maddy Prior

(First published in 2023)

Maddy Prior was born in 1947 in Blackpool, England. One of the most recognizable voices in folk music, she started singing at an early age. Her father, Allan Prior, who co-created the hit police drama Z-Cars, noticed her love of singing and signed her up in a local choir, where she learned a wide variety of folk songs. When she was a teenager, Prior moved to St. Albans, where she and her friends hung around the village’s record shops and listened to albums by Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez, among others. Although she started playing violin, she soon put it down and picked up banjo and then guitar.

Soon, Prior and friends were going to the pubs in St. Albans, where she met singer Donovan Leitch and guitarist Mac MacLeod. Prior and MacLeod formed the duo Mac and Maddy, but in 1966 she started performing with multi-instrumentalist Tim Hart. They recorded two albums together—Folk Songs of Old England, volumes 1 and 2—before joining up with Fairport Convention’s bassist Ashley Hutchings to form the electric folk group Steeleye Span in 1969. Prior left Steeleye Span in 1997, but rejoined them in 2002.

Over her long career, Prior also recorded 16 solo albums, performed and recorded with June Tabor as the duo Silly Sisters, performed and recorded with the British folk rockers the Carnival Band, and has appeared on albums by Jethro Tull and Mike Oldfield.

Prior now runs an arts center in Cumbria called Stones Barn, which she started in 2003. Along with her daughter Rose Kemp, and numerous other performers and artists, she offers classes and workshops in singing and performance. In 2001, Prior was awarded the MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her services to folk music.

Maddy Prior’s lilting vocals imbue a stunning range of folk songs—from British traditional hymns and songs to older folk ballads—with her stunning and instantly recognizable (and unforgettable) presence.


“The Mooncoin Jig”

“All Around My Hat”

“Gutter Geese”

“Somewhere Along the Road”

“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

“Black Jack Davey”

Supported By