Judge Smith - A Biographical Note

Judge Smith (his real name) co-founded the influential rock band Van der Graaf Generator in 1967 with singer-songwriter Peter Hammill, and since then has continued to be involved in numerous musical projects as writer, composer or performer.

During the '70s and '80s, he wrote several stage musicals in collaboration with composer Max Hutchinson: The Kibbo Kift was produced at the Traverse Theatre for the Edinburgh Festival of 1976 and at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield the following year. The Ascent of Wilberforce III was produced at the Traverse Theatre in 1981. Their musical Geraldo's Navy was commissioned and accepted by Michael Rudman and David Aukin of the Hampstead Theatre Club, but not staged. The Ascent of Wilberforce III received a second production at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in 1982.

Later the same year, the Lyric also presented Mata Hari, a music-theatre piece he co-wrote with (and which starred) singer Lene Lovich.

As a librettist, his works include the text for classical composer Joseph Horovitz's oratorio Samson, premiered in a radio broadcast from the Albert Hall in 1977, short texts for works commissioned from the same composer by The Kings Singers, and the libretto for composer Michael Brand's cantata Pioneer 10, performed at Birmingham Symphony Hall, 1992. Following a twenty-year collaboration with composer Peter Hammill, their opera The Fall of the House of Usher was finally completed, recorded and released in 1992, and in 1999, a revised and re-mastered recording was re-released on Fie! Records. More recently he wrote the lyrics and libretto for Twinkle a large scale children’s piece by David Jackson, and contributed lyrics to another of that composer’s works for children, The House That Cried.

His own Requiem Mass for Rock band, Choir and Brass was published in 1975 and still awaits its first performance, but his chamber opera The Book of Hours was directed by Mel Smith at the Young Vic Theatre, London in 1978. His short film The Brass Band, which he wrote and directed in 1974, has won several international awards.

His songs have been recorded by Peter Hammill and Lene Lovich and featured on the early '80s TV comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News. He has released ten CDs, plus a DVD, which can be obtained from our on-line Shop. A list of his albums can be found on the Musicography page of this web site.

Prominent among these are the three albums written in the ‘Songstory’ format which he has developed as a new form of narrative rock music: Curly’s Airships (2000), The Climber (2009), and Orfeas (2011). 

In 2013 CFZ Press published his first book, ‘The Universe Next Door’, and two further books on spirituality and the paranormal are due to be published in 2014.

He was born in 1948 and currently lives in Sussex on the South Coast of England.

October 2013.


Our Gallery shows a unique collection of photos from every stage of Judge's career.