Songwriting

Out of 22 albums, only three songs could be “a little” about him. Who?

Armatrading, now 70, has continued to produce albums since her debut in 1972, Anyway for us. She is celebrated for her deep, honeyed and flexible voice and her explorations of folk, jazz, blues, soul and pop. Since 2003, she has arranged and played almost all the instruments on her albums. She promoted creative isolation long before the coronavirus made it mandatory.

Armatrading insists that roughly no the song she writes is about her. Except maybe the 80s Me, myself and me and Better life, the new track on Consequences, a plea not to compare yourself to others and to live the life you love. There could be a a little bit of her in Love and affection, which has been on the set-list of every one of his concerts since he put it into orbit in 1976. No fan wants to be deprived of this opening come-hither: “I’m not in love, but I am open to persuasion.

In Amsterdam in 1995.Credit:Paul Bergen / Getty

Why, argues the woman nicknamed Joan Armor-Plating, would she go to the trouble of protecting her privacy as fiercely as she does, then spreading the wick in her songs? The only clue to her private life was the announcement of a civil partnership between her and artist Maggie Butler in 2011, seen on a public notice board in the Shetland Islands ahead of the ceremony.

Armatrading has a loot of honorary scholarships and doctorates, as well as its chart hits, awards, and three Grammy nominations. She received an MBE in 2001 and was recently appointed a trustee of the Prince’s Trust, a British charity founded in 1976 by Prince Charles to help vulnerable young people get their lives back on track.

Last year, in addition to becoming a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Armatrading became the 19th member of the Ivors Academy, one of the largest professional associations of music writers in Europe, joining Annie Lennox, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John.

She has raised funds for human rights, at-risk and disadvantaged youth, children with cerebral palsy and for education initiatives. His charitable work gives an idea of ​​where Armatrading’s heart lies. The search for fairness and equality is at the basis of most of it.

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“Everyone deserves to be able to do certain things in their life, regardless of their economic situation – find a job, study, be sociable,” she says, “and the Trust helps young people do all of these things, to motivate them. , to keep them confident.

The word she hears the most when working with the Trust is “trust”. “You will hear young people say they couldn’t get a job, talk to people in a meeting, draw, whatever, because they didn’t trust them. It is therefore about cultivating confidence.

From 2005 to 2010, Armatrading was Chair of the British Women of the Year Luncheon, which celebrates women in the arts, culture, politics and science. “They honor ordinary women, not necessarily household names, campaigning to make a difference,” she says, “like setting up a children’s hospice or raising money so African women can have sanitary napkins” .

Few artists have a sense of self like Joan Armatrading. If there’s one word that nails it, it’s probably “comfortable.”

“Not everyone in my family is like that,” she says, when asked where her strength and positivity come from. “I just know it’s me, it’s who I am; I don’t know of any other.

Born in the Caribbean and the third of six children, Joan moved to Birmingham when she was seven. A piano that her mother bought as a piece of furniture piqued her interest in music. She had lifted the lid and tried it on before he even walked through the front door.

The queen of the guitar on stage in 1974.

The queen of the guitar on stage in 1974.Credit:David Warner Ellis / Redferns / Getty

Guitars? She’s had a few, since she swapped two strollers for a “really cheap” acoustic guitar at a pawnshop when she was a teenager. Her love affair with guitars is evident in the BBC radio series she hosted a few years ago in which she interviewed five aficionados about the art of playing them: Mark Knopfler, John Williams, Bonnie Raitt , Bert Jansch and Russell Lissack of indie rock group Bloc Fête.

“I’ve never felt like a pop star… I’m ambitious for my songs. I measure success by how much I really like what I wrote.

Joan armatrading

Still, Armatrading tends not to get stuck, doesn’t mix up much. “I’m not one of those musicians who constantly listen to music. The last thing I looked at was Kanye West’s album Jesus is king; it’s a great album. I love Kanye West anyway. Also, Muddy Waters, Amy Winehouse and Smokey Robinson.

“I never felt like a pop star,” she says. “I feel like a songwriter. I am ambitious for my songs. I measure success by how much I really like what I wrote… but it’s important to me that songs affect people.

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While Armatrading struggles to name muses or mentors, there are many who would name her. For a UK tour in 2012, Armatrading invited 56 artists to open for her in their respective hometowns. Each then contributed a track to a compilation CD set.

Armatrading is always up for a challenge: like studying for a bachelor’s degree in history while touring in the late 1990s, running the New York Marathon at 57, composing a score for an all-female production of Shakespeare. Storm, learn to fly a helicopter, abseil… the latter is done secretly during a tour of Australia.

“I like to try new things – in my music and in my life – just for fun,” she said, letting out her characteristic contralto laugh. “I’m trying to write the song that says, ‘You did it! OK, Joan, you have nothing left to do, ”the song that says,“ Put the pen down!

Joan Armatrading with Band – Live from London is broadcast from 5:00 a.m. (AEST) on Sunday August 1. Tickets cost $ 43.35, available at joanarmatrading.com

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