From Sheeran to Emerson: Calderdale's top five musical geniuses

Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran

A RIVER of rich musical heritage runs deep and true through the Calder Valley.

The district can lay claim to a decorated list of genuine musical heroes, spanning multiple generations.

Including a 70s prog-rock legend and a modern-day pop troubadour, here we profile Calderdale’s top five bands and artists who transformed local fame into global stardom.

5. Paradise Lost

Formed in 1988 in Halifax, the innovative and distinctive Paradise Lost are widely regarded as the genre-defining pioneers of ‘doom metal’.

Their second album, 1991’s Gothic, was the band’s breakthrough record, with its dark, brooding production and lush orchestral arrangements setting them apart from other dominant metal artists of the day.

They have since gone on to make 15 albums and remain highly active in the studio and on the live circuit.

4. Ed Sheeran

It’s a little-known fact that global pop sensation Ed Sheeran (MBE!) spent his formative years in West Yorkshire.

Born in Halifax and originally living in Hebden Bridge, his family upped sticks and moved Ed to Suffolk when he was still young, but we’re not going to let that stop us from claiming a tenuous link to his international notoriety.

As you’re no doubt aware, Ed has since penned countless stellar hits and collected a glut of gongs. His songwriting genius and astounding live performances have garnered critical claim and fan adoration in equal measure and he is now recognised as one of the most popular and influential musicians on the planet. All down to his Calderdale roots, obviously!

3. Embrace

Hailing from Bailiff Bridge, Brighouse – although often cited in the press as a Huddersfield band (pah!) – Embrace gatecrashed the indie / Britpop scene of the late 1990s with their swaggering, swoonsome melodic hooks.

Combining raw guitar power with balladeering beauty, the debut album The Good Will Out was released on the coattails of Oasis euphoria and boasted a succession of instant hit singles, including All You Good Good People and Come Back To What You Know.

Their subsequent albums cultivated less enthusiasm but that didn’t deter the FA from handing them the ‘honour’ of crafting England’s 2006 World Cup song, World At Your Feet, which reached number three in the singles chart.

After a long hiatus, during which lead singer Danny McNamara bravely wrote about his life-long battles with mental illness, the band reformed in 2011 and released a new, electronica-tinged and self-titled album in 2014.

2. Geoff Love

Despite not being a household name, the astonishingly prolific composer and arranger Geoff Love, born and raised in Todmorden, enjoyed a long and varied career that saw him sell in excess of 2.5 million records. Wow!

Often playing and recording under the pseudonym Manuel and his Music of the Mountains, Geoff’s popularity took off in the 1950s when he began writing film theme music in the style of easy listening and pop singalongs.

His discography contains a staggering 35 albums, from which he earned one platinum, 15 gold and 13 silver discs.

Geoff died in 1991 aged 73. RIP, Geoff. We salute you. What a local legend!

1. Keith Emerson

Another Tod-born megastar. What do they put in the water, over there?

Keith Emerson is, of course, most famously known as the keyboard player and composer in prog-rock icons Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Keith was instrumental (pardon the pun) in defining the band’s unique style, with their gargantuan yet intricate soundscapes earning them vast commercial success throughout the 1970s.

Keith had a background in classical and traditional songcraft but had the vision, guile and agility to adapt his extensive knowledge and undeniable skills towards a more popular rock format.

Sadly Keith took his own life in 2016 at the age of 71.

He had suffered depression and anxiety throughout the latter half of his career.

A true hall-of-fame great, Keith will be remembered as one of the (if not the) best keyboardists of all time.

Best of the rest

Special mentions must also go to John Helliwell of rock band Supertramp, Robin Simon of Halifax, who was guitarist in Ultravox, Magazine and Visage, Tom Bailey, founding member of 80s pop outfit the Thompson Twins, and indie band Bogshed who formed in Hebden Bridge in 1984.