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In Fond Memory Of Sensitive Songsmith Clifford T. Ward

The former schoolteacher featured briefly on the UK charts of the 1970s, but lingers long in the hearts of those who know him.

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Britain produced a large number of singer-songwriters in the 1970s who never achieved the full appreciation their sensitive and incisive work deserved. One such was a former schoolteacher who featured briefly on the charts, but long in the hearts of those who discovered him. We’re remembering Clifford T. Ward, who passed away at the all-too-early age of 57 on 18 December 2001.

GayeWard will forever be best remembered for his charming ballad ‘Gaye,’ a UK top ten hit in 1973 which was one of many delightfully English compositions. He followed it up with another top 40 hit, ‘Scullery,’ and a number of the airplay-only successes we called “turntable hits” in those days, as well as a series of accomplished albums.

Ward was born in Stourport-on-Servern, about 25 miles south-west of Birmingham, in 1944, and played in a series of local bands in the 1960s before getting a “proper job” and trained as a teacher. He went on to Bromsgrove High School where his pupils included Sting‘s future wife, the actress Trudie Styler, and Karl Hyde, later of dance pioneers Underworld.

But Ward continued to write songs and was rewarded in 1972 with a contract with Dandelion, the label formed by the influential BBC broadcaster John Peel, for whom he released the album Singer Songwriter. Despite a lack of tangible success, that led to a deal with Charisma.

Jigsaw Girl Clifford T WardIt was there that Ward scored his chart singles and won huge media acclaim for the albums Home Thoughts (1973) and Mantle Pieces (1974), both of which made a modest chart impression. Further singles such as ‘Wherewithal,’ ‘Jigsaw Girl’ and ‘No More Rock ‘n’ Roll’ were beloved of radio programmers, but somewhat hampered by Ward’s innate shyness and reluctance to perform live.

Clifford continued to record into the 1980s, but was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987. Admirers such as Elton John and Sting raised money for his care, and he fought the disease for many years, releasing his final album of demos and outtakes, Julia and Other New Stories, in 1995. He died of pneumonia, and was survived by his wife Pat, whom he met at school.

As John Tobler’s review of Ward’s 1975 album Escalator for ZigZag magazine put it: “Clifford T. Ward is a very definite talent, whose work every ZigZagger should have in their collection. His songs are genuinely felt, the work of a sincere man who wants to say something, but in a musical form.”

Gaye and Other Stories can be bought here.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Steve

    July 26, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Have a few of Clifford’s albums on vinyl, but one of my favorite songs that he made is “Someone I Know” from the New England Days album. I always loved practically every track on Mantle Pieces especially “For Debbie and her Friends”and “Scullery”.

    Can’t believe it’s almost 16 years since he died

    Another underated English Singer-Songwriter from the same period was Ducan Browne, whose biggest hit was “Journey”

  2. Charlie Clarke

    December 24, 2018 at 11:47 am

    I fell in love with his music when I bought Mantle Pieces. He was absolutely exquisite, his lyrics were unique and his soft voice just soothed my soul. As long as we remember him, he’ll always exist

    • Barbara Brodkorb

      January 10, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      I lived in London from 1970-75
      and bought the record “Homethoughts from Abroad”.Fell in love with the music and his gentle voice.And exactly this record I found a few months ago. I listened to it and after 40 years I felt the same magic immediately.Ever since then I tried to get as many CD’s and videos as possible.And with every new song I listen to he touches my heart again and again. And when I read what happened to him I just cried

      and didn’t want to believe it. it it is true.And so sad.Actually I can’t even find the right words.They are in my heart and I’m glad Cliff touched me with his beautiful songs.Thank you.

  3. Andrew McCullough

    November 13, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Radio Caroline Flashback brought me here. I have it playing in the background on my computer at work (in Seattle) and the song “Jigsaw Girl” caught my ear; had never heard Mr. Ward before so a quick glance at the Caroline page and another quick search for Clifford T. Ward brought me to this page. He still has a magical draw, doesn’t he?

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