© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Richard Thompson Reflects On New Jersey, Britney Spears Before Tanglewood Show Sunday

A white bearded man in a beret and an acid washed denim vest
Richard Thompson.

Legendary singer-songwriter Richard Thompson is coming to the Berkshires on Sunday to play Tanglewood with Judy Collins and Jesse Colin Young.

London-born Thompson, 72, is a recent transplant to the East Coast after spending decades in California. Now a resident of Montclair, New Jersey, he says he’s taking to his new surroundings.

“I live in a comparatively leafy sort of suburb, where there's a lot of writers, lots of artists, musicians, etcetera," he told WAMC. "So that's fairly pleasant. I mean, that there's beautiful parks in New Jersey. I mean, the lakes are extremely beautiful. Then you've got the New Jersey Turnpike, which is just utterly ugly. And about two miles from where I live is kind of Mafia Central, really. It’s where the mobsters seem to hang out. So you know, it's a state where you’re not quite sure what it is you're going to get. You can be walking down the street on a nice sunny day, and everything's just pleasant. You turn a corner and you find yourself in an episode of ‘The Sopranos.’”

A cricket fan, Thompson says he’s only warmed up to one U.S. sport over his many years living in the states.

“I’m a big ice hockey fan," he said. "While I was living in Los Angeles, I had season tickets to the LA Kings and I saw a lot of games. And I saw the Kings win two Stanley Cups, which is fantastic. So that's the only North American sport that I really associate with. When you grow up with cricket, then baseball seems kind of weird. If you grew up with rugby, than American football seems a bit strange. So yeah, hockey’s the one for me.”

For his 2003 album “1000 Years of Popular Music,” Thompson covered Britney Spears’s 2000 hit “Oops, I Did It Again.” With the popstar’s controversial conservatorship in the headlines, Thompson reflected on his musical relationship with Spears – once a neighbor in Los Angeles.

“She’s someone I really feel sorry for," he told WAMC. "I think she came out of the Disney talent pool and was a child star and grew up with all of that. And that's a lot of pressure right there. And then having that the situation with her father, I think it's really tragic and I do feel sorry for her. You know, when I did the song, ‘Oops I did It Again,’ it was really disconnected from Britney as a person. I just liked the song. And I thought the song stood up on its own merits as a good popular song. I just thought it was interesting to do a version that was almost juxtaposed to her version of it, it was like the opposite. I was trying to find things in the song to reinforce the song’s positive qualities as I saw them.”

Thompson says he ranks Tanglewood among the best venues in the country, and he’s excited to perform with longtime friend and inspiration Judy Collins there on Sunday.

“I always thought that she had the best taste of anyone," said Thompson. "She was the first person to do a Leonard Cohen song. She's one of the first people to do a Joni Mitchell song on a record. That she would do things like like Marat/Sade – she'd step outside of her genre, she’d do a Stephen Sondheim song. She just always seems to have her ears open for the best qualities of songs. And she was a real pioneer in that way. And she's still out there and she still looks and sounds fabulous, and it's going to be such a thrill to work with her.”

No stranger to making bold political predictions – like when he told the Huffington Post he foresaw a coming socialist revolution in 2007 – Thompson says it’s now harder than ever to read the future of his adopted country.

“If you talk to young people, if you’re talking to people on under 25, some of them have almost like Marxist views of what the next step in America should be – which kind of shocks me because I went through the first round of Marxism and back in the 50s and 60s in the UK, and it was very clear that something that radically socialist really did not work," Thompson told WAMC. "But, you know, America’s so split. It's so geographically split. It's so politically polarized left and right that I really don't know what's going to happen at this point. Perhaps America will kind of blunder on as it always does, kind of muddle through without doing anything decisive. Or there's a chance that it might just disintegrate, that it might split into different factions, that people might, that states might leave the union. I really don't know what's going to happen.”

Richard Thompson appears at Tanglewood Sunday alongside fellow singer-songwriters Judy Collins and Jesse Colin Young.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
Related Content