Banner: ©Marc Bolan Photo session with Tony Visconti used for Slider Album. All rights reserved 1971.
British singer, songwriter and guitarist, Mark Feld (his real name) Marc Bolan, was born on September 30, 1947. He grew up in a simple Jewish family in London. As a child, Mark was fond of early rock ‘n’ roll and at the age of 9 he received his first guitar. Soon he gathered a skiffle group. Even then, Mark was a rebel, and at the age of 14 he was expelled from school. Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley were among the artists who influenced Bolan. Later The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Beach Boys were added to them. Leader of the band T. Rex. Before long creative activity with T. Rex (1967) he recorded solo singles and collaborated with the band John’s Children.
Bolan claimed that when The Children disbanded he spent some time in Paris with a magician, who knew how to fly through the air, and from whom he received some secret knowledge. Then he began to write neo-romantic songs that were included in the T. Rex’s first album: ‘‘My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows”
Bolan managed to make a living as a street musician, performing his songs on the streets of London. Tyrannosaurus Rex, his duet with percussionist Steve Peregrin Took, released a total of three albums and five singles, which had no commercial success. The first manager of Bolan became known later, the photographer Allan Warren, a musician with whom he studied at drama school at the famous Drury Lane Theatre. Then his partner was Mickey Finn with whom one album was recorded, after which the name was reduced to ”T. Rex” and the acoustic guitar was replaced with electric one.
Bolan married June Child and began writing songs at home, hoping to create the first big hit. He succeeded in 1970 with the song Ride A White Swan and producer Tony Visconti. The single slowly climbed the British charts, reaching number two in early 1971. Since 1971, the T. Rex’s singles became hits, rising to the first lines of the charts. In 1972, Bolan appeared in the musical documentary about T. Rex Born to Boogie, filmed by Ringo Starr.
Since 1973, the success of Bolan and T.Rex went on the decline and at the same time his first marriage broke up. He began an affair with singer Gloria Jones, who gave birth to a son in 1975. Bolan had disappeared from the public for three years, but continued to release singles and albums. In the mid-1970s the singer’s health worsened: he gained weight and addicted to cocaine.
In 1975-1977 Bolan lost weight and began to give concerts and to appear on television, in particular, he was a presenter of the musical TV show Marc, in the latest edition of which he sang a duet with David Bowie.
On 16 September 1977, Bolan was riding in a Mini 1275GT driven by Gloria Jones as they headed home from Mortons drinking club and restaurant in Berkeley Square. After failing to negotiate a small humpback bridge near Gipsy Lane on Queens Ride, Barnes, southwest London, the car struck a fence post and then a tree. Bolan was killed instantly, while Jones suffered a broken arm and broken jaw.
At Bolan’s funeral, attended by David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Tony Visconti, and Steve Harley, a swan-shaped floral tribute was displayed outside the service in recognition of his breakthrough hit single “Ride a White Swan“. His funeral service was at the Golders Green Crematorium, a secular provision in north London, where his ashes were buried. The car crash site has subsequently become a shrine to his memory, where fans leave tributes beside the tree. In 2013, the shrine was featured on the BBC Four series Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places. The site, referred to as Bolan’s Rock Shrine, owned and maintained by the T. Rex Action Group.
Bolan never learned to drive, fearing a premature death. Despite this fear, cars or automotive components are at least mentioned in, if not the subject of, many of his songs. He also owned a number of vehicles, including a white 1960s Rolls-Royce that was loaned by his management to the band Hawkwind on the night of his death.
Bolan had a great impact on a lot of musicians and entire areas, such as punk rock and Britpop, there are many cover versions of his songs.