…I have no thought of leaving

As cemeteries go it’s a happening spot.  Intermingled amid the resting places of relative unknowns are those of well-known actors and comedians, an Egyptologist of world renown, celebrated scientists and decorated soldiers, politicians and entrepreneurs, there’s a Russian revolutionary and a celebrity chef, as well as one of the world’s great footballers, a Nobel winning doctor and a survivor of the Titanic.  And there’s the woman who famously posed the question (in song) that applies to everyone there…and everyone here, “Who knows where the time goes?”

The inscription on her headstone reads, “The Lady” Alexandra Elene MacLean Lucas (Sandy) Denny, 6.1.47 – 21.4.78 and the cemetery is in South London’s Putney Vale, just off Wimbledon Common and but half a league from where Britain’s “pre-eminent folk rock singer” first saw the light of day in Nelson Hospital on the Kingston Road.

Her Scottish grandmother was a (traditional) singer and Denny, who studied classical piano, showed an early interest in singing too, although her parents were dubious that a living could be made from such a vocation. So after leaving school she began to train as a nurse.  But soon she was drawn to the folk club circuit and was eventually invited to join the (folk rock) Strawbs in 1967, followed by Fairport Convention in 1968. In the early ‘70s Sandy Denny turned to a solo career and was by then recognized as Britain’s premier female singer.

It was all cut short in 1978 when, while on holiday in Cornwall with her parents and infant daughter, Denny tumbled down a staircase and hit her head on the concrete floor. Following the incident she suffered from intense headaches (a doctor prescribed her painkillers) although she continued to perform days after the fall, before collapsing into a coma and dying from a traumatic brain hemorrhage.

Written and first recorded by Denny as a demo in 1967, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was recorded by Judy Collins and released as a B-side to her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” then later included as the title track of her popular 1968 album. Denny’s legendary version was released the following year on Fairport Convention’s album “Unhalfbricking.”

In addition to featuring this, the “Favourite Folk Track Of All Time” (according to the listeners of BBC Radio 2), “Unhalfbricking” is also remembered for a sleeve design that features neither an album title nor a band name, but only a photo of Neil and Edna Denny (Sandy’s once dubious parents) standing outside their family home on Arthur Road, Wimbledon…about halfway between Nelson Road Hospital on the Kingston Road and Putney Vale Cemetery….


Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving

But how can they know it’s time for them to go?

Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming

I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving

Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving

I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me

I know it will be so until it’s time to go

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who knows where the time goes?

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who knows where the time goes?

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