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Maggie Holland sang Anne Lister’s song Icarus in 1983 on her first solo album, Still Pause. Martin Simpson learned the song from Maggie Holland and sang it in 1985 on his Topic album Sad or High Kicking.
Anonyma (Anne Lister and Mary Mc Laughlin) recorded Icarus in 1987 for their Fellside album Burnt Feathers which, incidentally, was produced by Martin Simpson.
Robin Laing sang Icarus in 1989 on his Greentrax album Edinburg Skyline. He noted:
This lovely song appeals to me because of the Greek mythology theme. (Let’s not forget that Edinburgh is the Athens of the North.) It has been written with great affection and care by Anne Lister.
Nic Jones learned Icarus “from Anne Lister herself”. A recording of unspecified origin was included in 2001 on his anthology Unearthed.
Jon Boden sang Icarus as the 29 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.
Litha sang Icarus on their 2012 CD Dancing of the Light. Their sleeve notes commented:
This song was written by singer/songwriter and storyteller Anne Lister while she lived in Lyon, France, teaching English at the Université Lyon 2. Aaron [Jones] first heard it sung by Nic Jones, a true legend who continues to be an important influence on generations of folk singers.
Anonyma sing Icarus
I never wanted to fly high: I was too fond of walking
So when you said you’d reach the sky, thought it was a way of talking
But you told me you’d build some wings, you’d found out how it could be done
But I was doubtful of everything, never thought you’d reach the sun.
You were so clever with your hands, I watched you for hours
With your glue and rubber bands, feathers and lace and flowers
And the finished wings gleamed so bright, like some bird of glory
Began to envy you your flight, like some hero’s story.
You asked me to go along with you, tried all ways to dare me
But I looked at the sky so blue and said the height would scare me
But I carried the wings for you up the path to the cliff face
Kissed you goodbye and watched your eyes already bright with sunlight.
It was so wonderful at the start to watch you soaring higher
It was a pain in my heart—the wings seemed tipped with fire
Like some seagull or some lark heading for the heaven
Like some ember or some spark vanishing from earth for ever.
And I believed you’d reach the sun, I believed all you’d told me
Do a thing no man had ever done and catch a star to please me
And then I saw the white wings fold, saw the feathers tremble
Watched you drop like a ball of gold, the waves and waters ripple.
Well some are some who are born to rise and some are born to follow
Some who head right for the skies, some walk in the hollow
And as I watched your body fall I knew that really you had won
For your grave was not the earth but the reflection of the sun.
The lyrics are from the lyrics sheet of the album Burnt Feathers.