I sang to gave myself meaning and identity, to heal and speak my truth. 2020.
Desperate for identity, belonging, a tribe..I lied, fibbed, made myself up, pretended I was French or American. I told strangers in pubs and clubs that I was from far away. I discovered, quite by accident, a singing voice one day, but like the making up of many me’s, I feel as if I am an imposter. Age snags and snaps and suddenly I am an old woman. Oh no. I was young. Once upon a time. It seems to me that time went too fast. Stop. The end. I am slowly dying. Sitting in my pants eating crisps. A world seemingly shooting itself in the foot. A Virus here, a war there in a time run by ….nothing has changed.
Extract from The Singers Tale.. 1965.
The city was full of gamblers and losers, pariahs and deludering liars.
The Boss ‘It was always so.’ .. with snort of derision
Nasty Nellie ‘A plague or worms toads and cockroaches upon their heads’
The Boss ‘Above the law, entitled by rank, blood, land and privilege. The Law, entitled by uniform, connections, violence and control. Power, greed and avarice.
When I wrote my book ..The Singers Tale, the section that was 1965 /6/7/8/9, when I was in one of my first Bands. The Race. Early days, first steps. We were a 6 piece when these pics were taken. Four men and me. One gay man, two straight men, both white, two black men and me. At that time, it was illegal to be Gay, and there was a so called ‘colour Bar’ in many places. Euston Station being one such place. Although we were doing well on the circuit at the time, we were never signed, with exception of one single for Polydor and dropped, as we would not play to the Music Business rules of the day. As the years went by, I began to understand. At the time, we were hoping, like other young musicians, for the big break. At this time .. Asquith Xavier, a train guard from Dominica, was refused a transfer from Marylebone Station to Euston because of his colour. Up the road from where we rehearsing, gigging and dreaming.
The family of a black train guard who overturned a racist recruitment policy at Euston railway station in the 1960s has said he has been “omitted” from history lessons.
Asquith Xavier won the right to work at the station in 1966, but received hate mail and death threats.
He died too young, and was forgotten, never written about or remembered and celebrated as he should have been. And here we are in 2020? Going backwards? I once heard someone from one of the 2 tone Bands talking on a radio interview about the ground breaking mixed race bands in the UK during the 1980s, the first of a new pioneering radical political breakthrough. As if there had been no mixed Race Bands before them. Not true. There were, but below the radar..in London, Birmingham …all over the place… hidden, and written out of main stream history..so how would they know? Rubbed out like Asquith Xavier. When I went to Memphis in the early 1970s, to record with what was most of Otis Redding’s band, after his death, I was struck how horrendous it had been for them, a mixed Race band in the South of the USA in 1960s.. I heard some stories…some funny, others not so… amazing band ….Now they were truly pioneering.
A very early interview... a very intense young man.. But we were thrilled.I don't know how or why he said I was a teacher! Left school at 15 with no qualifications. Or maybe I fibbed to appear less of an idiot? Who knows? It was all a very long time ago.
Before I leave..
Finding a tribe with pride, eventually I will say ..
I am a musician, I am a Mother, this is how I lived, put food on the table, a roof over our head. A place that was home with a door and kitchen, a bathroom and bed, with place for treasures found on life’s trails. And along the way I found my family.
And now I am old and the world has gone mad. I am afraid. I am confused.