Heel to toe to hair and hoof and it's head over heels and it's all but an ark-lark...
Elizabeth Fraser
Elizabeth Fraser in 2009. Photo by Sally Mundy for The Guardian.

“I gained so much from [inventing language]. I didn’t expect it to be such a fulfilling experience, at first it was an avoidance tactic. More than that. But I must have given myself permission along the way that I was really gonna go for it and not worry about people’s opinions.”

Elizabeth Fraser

  • Full name: Elizabeth Davidson Fraser
  • Role: Voice, lyrics, miscellaneous instrumentation
  • Birth date: 29 August, 1963
  • Birthplace: Grangemouth, Scotland
  • Residence: Bristol, England
  • Partner(s): Robin Guthrie (1980 -1993); Damon Reece (1997- )
  • Children: Lucy-Belle Guthrie (b. 1989); Lily Reece (b. 1998)

Elizabeth Fraser was the vocalist and lyricist in Cocteau Twins. Like Robin Guthrie and erstwhile member Will Heggie, Fraser was born and raised in Grangemouth, Scotland, the youngest of six children. An alienated teenager who loved the Sex Pistols, The Birthday Party, and Siouxie and the Banshees, she was the third member to join the original lineup with Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie in the early 1980s after they saw her dancing at a local disco and thought perhaps she could sing. (In an interview in 1983, a 19-year old Liz said, “They wanted to get a band started, and I don’t know what made me think of going with them, but I started working with them. Actually I always wanted to be a waitress.”)

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“You have to understand how few choices there were,” she explained to Billboard in 1993. “Most of the women worked where my mother did, in a sewing factory called Racke’s. And most of the men worked for BP, but my father was a tool grinder in a wood yard.” Music, then, was an escape. “My mother had been a drummer in a pipe band, and my father played accordion. There were hundreds of British pop records at home—The Beatles, Petula Clark, Lulu—and I got shanghaied into singing hymns at Beancross Primary School when I was six. It was wonderful growing up with music in the house, because there was so much tension just outside the door, like our Protestant segregation from Catholics.”

“I was the sweetest punk rocker you’ve ever met,” she said, but her family disapproved, and Fraser left home at age sixteen. Being on her own meant that joining a band was as good a choice as any other and, despite a couple of false starts, she became romantically involved with Guthrie and finally committed to Cocteau Twins. With him, she formed the core of the group for several years, which saw the departure of Heggie and the addition of Simon Raymonde. Her shy nature and diminutive stature came to belie her powerful, often towering voice; and her disposition—sweet, occasionally profane, punk-inflected, and prone to bursts of laughter—gave little indication of her commanding presence on stage and confidence on camera. Elizabeth’s distinctive vocal style, arrangements, titles, and mysterious, often impenetrable lyrics—she is an avid reader and logophile—have been the source of much admiration and debate. She has been mostly circumspect on the matter of lyrics when asked about them, preferring listeners to focus on the sound and underlying emotions and less on the words themselves; to let the singing inform their own subjective experiences.

Fraser had no proper vocal training prior to joining Cocteau Twins, though she studied for a time with the late Tona De Brett, a well-known vocal coach, whose influence can be heard in the way Elizabeth’s singing evolved in the span of just one year from Head Over Heels to Treasure. Fraser’s unique use of her dynamic vocal range has made her one of the world’s most respected and beloved contemporary singers and vocal arrangers, but not without difficulty. Having been thrust into the spotlight at so young an age (being called “the Voice of God” will do that), she gradually became more reclusive and insecure, and struggled to overcome sometimes crippling stage fright. Despite those challenges, other musicians often praised her work ethic and meticulous approach to her craft as much as they admired her voice.

Elizabeth’s role as a young, self-possessed, and anxious front-woman had antecedents: Poly Styrene of X-Ray Specs comes to mind, as does Debbie Harry of Blondie and, of course, Siouxsie Sioux, to whom she was frequently compared in the Cocteaus’ early days. Before long Fraser herself was likened to Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday, Nina Simone, and Les Voix Bulgares—all of whom have influenced her own work—as well as more contemporary singers, including Kate Bush, Björk, Sinéad O’Connor, Tracey Thorne, Sarah Cracknell, Harriet Wheeler, Toni Halliday, Alison Goldfrapp, and Jónsi, with some citing her as an inspiration. When asked who her own favorite singers were, several of these names came up, along with Judy Henske, Esther Ofarim, Frank Sinatra, and Tim Buckley. Buckley’s son, Jeff Buckley, also made a formidable impression on Liz, and they became intimate friends in the years prior to his death in the 1990s. Her (and Cocteau Twins’) other notable admirers have ranged far and wide, and include Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox, and David Lynch, to name a few.

Since Cocteau Twins’ breakup in 1997, which was precipitated by her own decision to leave the trio, she has continued to keep a low profile, rarely appearing in public or in the press. “They were my life,” she explained to The Guardian in 2009. “There’s still a sense of being committed, but we’re not committed. We’re that different from each other now. You take each other’s breath away by doing something or saying something they never saw coming.” Liz was similarly the deciding factor behind Cocteau Twins’ would-be reunion in 2005, when they were slated to play the Coachella Festival. “When you’re in something that deeply,” she explained afterward, regarding her choice to pull out of the arrangement, “you have to remove yourself completely.”

Despite remaining quite intentionally out of the media spotlight, Elizabeth has enjoyed a fruitful solo career. She has appeared as guest vocalist on a number of other artists’ records, most notably with Massive Attack and their breakthrough song “Teardrop,” written in the wake of Jeff Buckley’s death; a diverse range of film and television scores and soundtracks, such as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy; and a smattering of releases and special appearances under her own name, including the white label 12-inch “Underwater” (2000), and the single Moses (2009).

She has also continued writing new music, learned to play instruments and, collaborating with her partner, Damon Reece and other musicians, she has developed her own distinctive musical palette. Fraser performed an album’s-worth of original songs live at two sold-out concerts in August 2012 as part of the Meltdown Festival, though she had, until 2022, done little with them, choosing to follow her inspiration where it takes her instead of bowing to the pressures of the music business. This has, in later years, included traditional folk songs, which she has performed in unannounced club appearances; touring with Massive Attack; writing music scores for television series; and occasionally working with other artists: in 2020, Liz was a guest on folk musician and singer Sam Lee’s newest record, Old Wow, as well as on Icelandic artist Jónsi’s album Shiver.

In 2022, Fraser and Reece released a five-track EP on Partisan Records, entitled Sun’s Signature. The songs, which include a re-worked version of “Underwater,” were all previously performed live during her Meltdown Festival appearances. The EP was well-received by both critics and fans. In its review, Pitchfork’s Ben Cardew wrote, “Fraser is in predictably fine form. Her voice has matured considerably from the slightly jagged tones of her Cocteau Twins debut, when the band sailed close to punk rock and goth; here, she lands on a tone that is higher, fuller, and more recognizably human in register. Her lyrics, often indecipherable at the Cocteau Twins’ peak, are recognizable and even relatable on Sun’s Signature, speaking of love, nature, and the passing of the seasons… Comparisons to the Cocteau Twins are inevitable. But whereas Fraser’s iconic group brought an otherworldly, almost incomprehensible beauty to much of their music, Sun’s Signature’s charm is surprisingly empathetic. It feels hospitable and lived in, binding earthly emotion with musical grace.” The duo subsequently released an extended version of the EP in 2023, which featured remixes by a number of artists in their orbit, including John Grant, LUMP, and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory.

In addition to her musical career, Liz has pursued formal studies in creative writing and poetry.

Fraser ended her intimate relationship with Robin Guthrie in 1993, and they have a daughter, Lucy Belle, who was born in 1989. Elizabeth now makes her home in Bristol, England, with Reece, and their daughter, Lily (b. 1998).


  • "Underwater" (As Sun's Signature)
  • "Golden Air" (As Sun's Signature)
  • "Cannibal" (With Jónsi)
  • "The Moon Shines Bright" (With Sam Lee)
  • "She Moves Through the Fair"
  • "The Lover's Ghost"
  • "The Purple Pileus"
  • "Moses"
  • "Song to the Siren" live in 2012.
  • Composing vocals for Yann Tiersen's "Mary" and "Kala."
  • "At Last I Am Free," for Rough Trade's 25th anniversary compilation.
  • "An Angel on Ruskin," from The Bather's LP Sunpowder (1995).
  • "Take Me With You," from the motion picture soundtrack for "The Winter Guest."
  • "This Love," with Craig Armstrong.
  • "Downside Up," with Peter Gabriel, from the OvO project.
  • "Teardrop" with Massive Attack, from the LP Mezzanine.
  • "Teardrop" with Massive Attack, peformed live for MTV.
  • "Black Milk" and "Teardrop" live, with Massive Attack and Portishead.
  • "Yanka's Song" live with Massive Attack.
  • Live performance with Massive Attack.
  • "Silent Spring" with Massive Attack.
  • "All Flowers in Time (Bend Towards the Sun)" with Jeff Buckley (1994).


Solo performances, guest appearances, and other collaborations

Song title/Role Artist/Collaborator Release Year
“Sixteen Days” This Mortal Coil Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust 1983
“Song to the Siren,” “Another Day” This Mortal Coil It’ll End in Tears 1984
“Respect” The Wolfgang Press Scarecrow 1984
“Love Insane” Dif Juz Extractions 1985
“I Am the Crime” The Wolfgang Press Standing Up Straight 1986
“Primitive Painters” Felt Ignite the Seven Cannons 1986
“Candleland” Ian McCulloch Candleland 1989
“Aurora Borealis” The Veldt Unreleased 1989
“Heaven’s Gate” Ian McCulloch Mysterio 1992
“Be Still” (Cocteau Twins Mix) Various Artists Peace Together 1993
“Butterfly Knife” Fuel (Hamish Mackintosh) Timeless EP 1994
“Paths 1 - 7” The Future Sound of London Lifeforms 1994
“Time Baby 3” Medicine Sounds of Medicine / The Crow Motion Picture Soundtrack 1994
“All Flowers in Time (Bend Towards the Sun)” Jeff Buckley Unreleased Demo 1994
“Danger in Love,” “The Dutch Venus,” “The Angel on Ruskin,” “The Night is Young” The Bathers Sunpowder 1995
“Play God” Moose Live a Little, Love a Lot 1995
“Roach” BOM BOM 1996
“Hypo-Allergenic” Spooky Found Sound 1996
“Take Me With You” Michael Kamen The Winter Guest Motion Picture Soundtrack 1997
“Worship Me” Simon Raymonde Blame Someone Else 1998
“Teardrop,” “Black Milk,” “Group Four” Massive Attack Mezzanine 1998
“This Love” Craig Armstrong The Space Between Us 1998
“Dream Baby” Elliot Goldenthal In Dreams Motion Picture Soundtrack 1999
“Downside Up,” “Make Tomorrow” Peter Gabriel & Various Artists OvO: The Milennium Dome Project 1999
“Underwater” Solo Underwater (Unreleased) 2000
“Lothlorien (featuring Gandalf’s Lament)” Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Motion Picture Soundtrack 2001
“Isengard Unleashed” Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Motion Picture Soundtrack 2002
“At Last I Am Free” Solo with Various Artists Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before… 2003
“Expectant Mood” Solo with Various Artists for Victoria & Albert Museum Shhh… 2004
“Mary,” “Kala” Yann Tiersen Les Retrouvailles 2005
“Silent Spring” Massive Attack Collected 2006
“Moses” Solo Moses 2009
“Yanka’s Song” Massive Attack Live/Unreleased 2013
“My Coloring Book” Massive Attack Live/Unreleased 2013
“She Moves Through the Fair,” “The Lover’s Ghost” With Damon Reece The Living and the Dead Television Series Soundtrack 2016
Soundtracks for “The Purple Pileus,” “The Moth,” “The Devotee of Art,” and “The Late Mr. Elvesham” With Damon Reece The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells (Television Mini-series) 2016
“Moon Shines Bright” Sam Lee Old Wow 2020
“Cannibal” Jónsi Shiver 2020
“Tales from the Trash Stratum” Oneohtrix Point Never Magic Oneohtrix Point Never 2021
“Sun’s Signature” Solo with Damon Reece Sun’s Signature 2022
“Sun’s Signature” Extended Solo with Damon Reece and guests Sun’s Signature 2023

External links