The Unthanks: cast sorrows away and relish an outstanding musical triumph
Ain’t Nothing But … a great British blues bar

Rab Noakes RIP: news of his death 'hit me like a heavy ton of bricks'

As years go by, acquaintance with death is unavoidable. Friends, relatives, former colleagues and people you know a little or a lot succumb to nature's way of doing things.

The certainty of mortality hardly makes it easier when loved or liked ones pass away. I am so sorry to have to report that Rab Noakes, a wonderful Scottish singer-songwriter, has died, suddenly in hospital according to his friend Barbara Dickson.




There is something particularly disconcerting about hearing someone you met only as a young man was all of 75 when his time came. For me, he never grew old.

Like Barbara, Rab was a regular visitor to the folk clubs of North-eastern England that I frequented, ran and helped to run back in the late 1960s and the start of the 1970s. They also collaborated, performing and recording together or Barbara singing Rab’s songs.

In short, Rab was one of those maddeningly gifted artists who would come down to our clubs from Scotland and  show us how it should be done. I had not seen him, face to face or singing live, since moving away half a century ago though I remained familiar with his work and we did exchange, like or retweet very occasional Twitter messages.

Seriously underrated, as one of the tributes that follow asserts, Rab Noakes nevertheless  commanded huge respect from other singers, writers and musicians as well as the audiences he entertained in such accomplished fashion.

I will let others tell of their grief at his death and the admiration they felt for this outstanding artist.

For one of my clips, I have chosen a live rendition of one of the Rab Noakes songs I instantly called to mind when hearing he had died. Here, in the familiar format of performing with Lindisfarne, is a live version of Together Forever.


And now for a few other words on Rab, starting with those of Linda Thompson, another great musical product of Scotland, plus two more clips. You can explore more of his music at YouTube and read up on his career at Wikipedia.


Linda Thompson

Heartbroken about Rab Noakes. We were friends for well over 50 years. We were due to have lunch in a couple of weeks. Oh Jesus!

Bill Taylor, friend in Canada and regular Salut! Live contributor

This is so sad. And he was SO under-rated. It's hard to find but I love his version of Utah Phillips's The Goodnight Loving Trail. He was a great friend of Lindisfarne's. There's a nice video on YouTube of the band and Rab in concert doing Together Forever. [found  and included above - Ed]. And Lindisfarne's Turn a Deaf Ear includes him in one of the verses:

My friend's girl, she has a wireless aerial sticking out of her head

And a pile of True Romances lying underneath the bed

And a giant poster of Rabby Noakes just beside the door

But I know she'll get along fine without him if he doesn't see her any more


Ken Alderson, Salut! Live Facebook group member

Discovered him via Lindisfarne song credits, Branch still on the jukebox. Beautiful singer.

Steve Peck, also a member of our Facebook group

Wow, this hit me like a heavy ton of bricks. I discovered Rab here over the in the States almost by accident back in 2018. He's been my constant companion. He epitomized joy for me, even tho some of his music is sadder and darker. I actually bawled when I heard it. I don't think I've done that since John Prine died. </blockquote>
And from John Sakamoto, a highly respected Canadian music writer, comes my second clip, to which his pal, Bill, refers above
And finally, one of those collaborations with Barbara Dickson, talking and singing ...


Alan Murray

I was around 13 when I heard Red Pump Special. I had just started learning guitar and Rab's style was the very first I ever tried to copy. I saw him several times as a teenager, in the Adam Smith Centre in Kirkcaldy. In my 20s, I co-hosted a folk club in the Prince Albert pub in Brighton with my Canadian friend, Ron. Jim Marshal ran the club and booked Rab. It was a superb night and Rab stayed overnight in my house after the gig. I felt like a kid whose hero had actually turned up in his life for real.
I'm in my 60s now and my story has been one of playing guitar and singing in a parallel life to my main one as a teacher. Rab's ear for melody, all the unrecorded but screaming-out-at-you opportunities for harmonies and his guitar styles have travelled with me through my life. I can't believe he's gone. A life lived for the good of his fellow human beings: not so many folk can claim as much. Thank you, Rab, for the inspiration and all those beautiful songs.

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