Birthday: Richard Thompson

His brilliant guitar skills, distinctive voice and ability to write haunting songs have made Richard Thompson a leader in British folk music since the 1960s.

Born April 3, 1949, in London, Thompson got his start early: At 17 he founded Fairport Convention with Iain Matthews and Judy Dyble. Fairport Convention jump-started the British folk scene, and Thompson's guitar-picking skills on songs such as "Decameron" (RealAudio excerpt) earned him particular recognition. He married former Bunch singer Linda Peters in 1972, and they recorded several albums together prior to their 1982 divorce.

Thompson's skills have earned him collaborations with a variety of artists, including Nick Drake, Bonnie Raitt, the Golden Palominos, J.J. Cale and David Thomas, and through the '80s and '90s he released a string of acclaimed solo albums.

Last August's Mock Tudor is a collection of dark songs about growing up in London. On it, Thompson's mastery of the guitar is still apparent on such songs as "Dry My Tears and Move On" (RealAudio excerpt).