Archive for November, 2009

Musicians of the Midlands: Joan Armatrading

Monday, November 9th, 2009

The Midlands has a rich musical history with many influential musicians coming from the area. A lot of the musicians will be well known to everyone, but you may not be familiar with some. Rather than focus on one type of music, the Memories in Music exhibit will try and represent as many of the musical styles as possible. It is always a good thing to stretch your musical horizons! I learned that a long time ago from my music hero, the awesome Jimmy Page. There’s so much to hear in his music, and I remember carefully noting every time he mentioned a musical influence of his and him saying that he wasn’t just locked into one thing. I do notice fans getting locked into one style of music, sometimes even one musician or band, and I think it is a shame as you miss so much. My music library has a lot of different stuff in it, as I do try and give everything a go at least once. I may not like it, but I have a go because I just might!

Hopefully the fans who contribute to Memories in Music, and our exhibits, will encourage people to stretch their musical tastes. You may find a lot of joy in something you might never have discovered on your own!

The first musician I would like to profile from the Midlands is Joan Armatrading. Joan was born in St Kitts, but was raised in Birmingham. Like a lot of musicians you read about, she spent a lot of time playing her guitar and lost a job because she insisted on playing during her breaks.

Joan is considered to be the first black female artist to achieve success in the industry performing her own material. While performing in the musical Hair in London, she met Pam Nestor, with whom she started to compose songs which featured on two albums in 1972 and 1975. Then in 1976, Joan released a solo album simply titled ‘Joan Armatrading.’ This album entered the UK top twenty and the song ‘Love and Affection’ from the album was in the top ten. She went on to make 16 albums, her latest, 2007’s ‘Into the Blues’ debuted at #1 in the US Blues chart and was nominated for a Grammy in the Blues Category. Those two honours were the first to be achieved by a UK female artist.

Joan plays guitar and piano. Her musical style is a mixture of pop, blues, folk, and even reggae. Her songs are very moving and her fans often credit her with warm and soulful vocals that reach out to them. I’d love to hear from any fans of Joan that have seen her in concert and want to share the memory with us, or add to the little bio here. The music of the Midlands is certainly richer thanks to her.