“It is with deep sadness and sorrow that my dearest oldest mate in life and music passed away today after a long illness. please play our music very loud today”  was posted on the group’s Facebook page.

Never as this disgraceful year our heart is been through the mill with the pain and sadness for endless deaths of many of our beloved artists. Last ‘casualty of war’ is Caroline Crawley, one half, along with Jemaur Tayle, of the mid 80’s English baroque pop duo Shelleyan Orphan.

Hailing from Bournemouth in South coast of England, they were yet another example of a cult band highly respected by its fellow musicians, but slammed by the critics and with little commercial success.

A truly unique group under their magic moniker, inspired by their common love for the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and precisely taken by his 1815 poem “Alastar”, gained in 1984 an unlikely support  to The Jesus And Mary Chain at the London’s ICA and the admiration of Geoff Travis, who subsequently signed them to his Rough Trade label with which they released three albums and as many singles in the time frame from 1986 to 1992.

Their 1987 debut, a little ‘out of time’ masterpiece, ‘Helleborine’, named after an orchid which is alleged to have the power to cure madness, was too peculiar and unfashionable for the period with only few acts like The Dream Academy and Virginia Astley on their same wavelength, in addition the musical press, cynically accusing them to be ‘pretentious’ and labeling the group as ‘Pre-Raphaelite Fruitcakes’, didn’t help.

Their music is an amazing blend of pastoral arcadian folk, baroque chamber-music interludes of heart-breaking and evocative beauty and Victorian-era decadent romanticism with a predominant use of cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon paired with the, sometime unusual and exotic, folk instruments.

The dark, cultured and symbolic poetic lyrics with their references and quotes to the English Romanticism and Shakespeare, are highlighted by the beautiful and beguiling Caroline’s voice, a voice that deserves to be ranked at the same level of the more famous Kate Bush‘s and Liz Fraser‘s ones.


Their excellent second full length ‘Century Flower’ drew the attention of Robert Smith who invited the duo to join The Cure as support band, along with Marc Almond, on the 1989 “Guilty” European tour to promote their successful ‘Disintegration’ album.

In 1989 the 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell had such a soft spot for Caroline’s voice to invite her to feature in the third This Mortal Coil‘s album ‘Blood‘.

The pair reformed Shelleyan Orphan around 2007 and released their fourth album ‘We Have Everything We Need’ in collaboration on several tracks with the Hungarian National Radio Orchestra, this time ironically fully supported by the critics.

We have lost a beautiful, talented woman that will forever fill our heart with her unearthly voice… to honour Caroline just follow the  Jemaur’s words ‘don’t turn the music off, fill your hearts and ears, ring bells, dance crazily and sing out loud!!!’.

Fabrizio Lusso