❉ Felix was the doyenne of the folk scene and was associated with many folk luminaries including Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and also Dusty Springfield.
There are many people to whom the word ‘legend’ is often applied. In the case of Julie Felix, this is justifiably so. She was an utter legend in her chosen musical genre of folk music, and throughout her long career she worked with some of the best in the business; poet folk singer Leonard Cohen was a close personal friend and collaborator, she recorded the music of and sang with Bob Dylan on many occasions, and she also worked with the late great Dusty Springfield in her heyday. In 1968, The Times described Julie Felix as “Britain’s First Lady of Folk”.
Born Julie Ann Felix in 1938, she was a Californian-born, British-based folk recording artist with a mixed Native American and Mexican heritage. She was at the height of her success in the 1960s and 70s, although she performed and released records right up until her death.
In 1960 Julie met Leonard Cohen on the Greek island of Hydra and they remained lifelong close friends, even recording material together such as Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye and The Stranger Song amongst many other titles.
Julie moved from her native California to the UK in 1964 and secured a recording contract with Decca Records. Within a year her career was well-established in the UK, and in 1965 she became the first folk singer to appear at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 1968 Julie became the resident singer on the BBC’s The Frost Report, and later that year until 1970 she additionally presented her own TV shows, including Once More with Felix.
In 1969 she performed at The Isle of Wight Festival for the first time and during that year she had two hit singles in the pop charts; If I Could (El Condor Pasa) which was her most successful 7” release, and Heaven is Here which was co-written by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson of Hot Chocolate.
Felix was the doyenne of the folk scene and was associated with many folk luminaries including Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and also Dusty Springfield. Felix had a brief affair with Springfield, which ended when Dusty became jealous of other female attention towards her lover. Springfield hit Felix, who justified Dusty’s actions by saying, “We’d been drinking wine and she was taking Mandrax. I think the combination was bad.” Felix also later went on to defend Springfield’s bad reputation for ‘being a total bitch’ by saying, “She was such a musician. She knew exactly what she wanted. In those days, women were so disrespected.”
Felix briefly married David Evans between the years of 1966-67 but when questioned about her sexuality, Felix indicated that she was drawn towards souls rather than specific genders. Prompted by her affair with Springfield, Felix stated,
“I’m perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”
Felix went on to work with an array of well-known artists of the time including John Renbourne, Manfred Mann and The Hollies, and through the ensuing decades recorded a number of songs written by her old friend Bob Dylan.
Julie’s last single, Freedom is a Woman with Linda Em was released on 8th March this year, aka International Women’s Day. The song is close to Julie’s feminist ethos as it’s about celebrating all the women in the world, and also draws on Julie’s heritage with a Mexican cantina opening the song.
Linda recently said, “I met Julie at a Folk Festival a few years ago. We became friends and later Julie asked me to perform at her 80th birthday celebrations, which was magic! I’ll never forget it! I was delighted to work with her on Freedom is a Woman. The lyrics really give an insight into Julie’s psyche. She was a feminist and activist and she will be missed by many, including me.”
Julie died at home in Hertfordshire, in her sleep during the night of Sunday 22nd March after a short illness. Her musical legacy, feminist ideals and contribution to the folk genre will live on forever more.
❉ Julie Felix – First Second & Third (Complete Decca LP’s 1964-1966) was released in 2008 by RPM/Cherry Red Records (RETROD841), with sleeve notes by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley. Currently out of print, but can be found new & used at the usual outlets.
❉ Ange Chan is an author, poet and a writer who is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.