Roy Harper was born in June 1941 in Rusholme, Manchester. His mother, Muriel, died three weeks after he was born and he was brought up by his father and stepmother.
Harper began writing poems when he was 12 and started playing skiffle music with his younger brother David when he was 13. At 14 he formed his first group (De Boys) with his brothers David and Harry.
He left school at the age of 15 to join the Royal Air Force (he had an ambition to be a pilot) but after two years, Harper rejected the rigid discipline and feigned madness to obtain a military discharge, also receiving an electroconvulsive therapy treatment at Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital, Wendover, as a result.
After being discharged from Wendover, Harper spent one day inside the former Lancaster Moor Mental Institute before escaping. These experiences would be recalled in Committed, a song on his debut album, Sophisticated Beggar.
From 1961 Harper busked his way around North Africa, Europe and London for a few years.