Jackie Leven: New compilation album celebrates Fife’s forgotten songwriting great

A new album celebrating the remarkable music of Fife-born Jackie Leven has been released just months before the 10th anniversary of his untimely death.

By Allan Crow
Friday, 13th August 2021, 8:49 am

Straight Outta Caledonia is the first ‘greatest hits’ showcase for a prolific songwriter who never achieved the recognition many believe he deserved.

Leven died of cancer, aged just 61, in November 2011, and left behind an astonishing catalogue.

Now his champions hope this release will allow a new audience to discover his work.

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Jackie Leven

The album features just ten tracks from the hundreds he recorded after setting out on a solo career following a spell fronting the acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful new wave band, Doll By Doll.

Collated by Night School Records, it has been hailed as the perfect introduction to Leven the wordsmith, troubadour, storyteller, and songwriter, with his Fife roots woven deep into his lyrics.

Leven began on the folk circuit in the 1960s, but rose to prominence in the 1970s with Doll By Doll who recorded four albums.

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Author Ian Rankin and musician Jackie Leven pictured in South Queensferry looking over to Fife to launch their CD and live show (Pic: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL)

His life was derailed by a horrific mugging in London - where he lived - in 1984 which saw his larynx badly crushed, leaving him unable to speak.

He turned to heroin, but kicked the habit and went on to found the Core Trust to help addicts by using alternative medicine.

When he return, The Mystery of Love is Greater than the Mystery of Death, was ranked by Q Magazine one of the "best 100 albums of all time.”

Leven teamed up with fellow Fifer, author Ian Rankin, for the album and stage show Jackie Leven Said - Rankin used several song titles for his Rebus books, Leven responded by penning ‘The Haunting of John Rebus.’

Last March, the Cardenden author was on stage at the Cash Back In Fife event in Aberdour to talk about his favourite Leven tracks.

Leven’s final album, Wayside Shrines and the Code of the Travelling Man, was released in September 2011, just two months before he died on November 14.

The hugely likeable, larger-than-life figure was due to come home for a gig up the road at the Green Hotel in Kinross that Friday.

A decade on, and his music continues to celebrated.

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