Skin and the legacy of a rock goddess

by Molly Tie

I’ve been seeing a fair bit of Deborah Dyer in the papers recently and it got me to thinking about her incredibly powerful persona and exciting career. Still relevant; still badass and still not suffering fools, Dyer (A.K.A Skin of Skunk Anansie fame) still deserves kudos for her enduring legacy and unapologetic brand of ‘clit-rock’.

We have Skunk Anansie’s Summer tour to thank for the influx of articles and interviews in which the impact and influence of the band’s musical output is re-celebrated and poured over, and in true bandwagon style I have decided to add to it. Prepare to be influxed.

Skin was born in 1967 and brought up in Brixton, South London. Her childhood was spent surrounded by music. Her grandfather ran his own drinking establishment and Skin witnessed the revelry and camaraderie that people enjoy when drinking rum and having a dance to Prince Buster. With childhood dreams of becoming a pianist, Skin was keen to pursue a career in music.

The vehicle that would propel her to worldwide fame was the band she is most famous for fronting- Skunk Anansie. Formed in 1994, Skunk Anansie were often lumped into the generic Britrock label as this was the time that ‘Cool Britannia’ was the benchmark for quality culture and British-ness was all the rage- British films; fashion and most significantly, music. Nestled in amongst the likes of Oasis, Blur and Supergrass there was a cohort of harder bands like the Prodigy who made for slightly more hardcore listening.

Skunk Anansie were widely considered to be a political band (they once declared that ‘everything is political’), a label given out due to the nature of their lyrics and Skin’s aggressive vocals. They were Britain’s answer to Rage Against the Machine. Skin has been outspoken in her belief that more musicians need to address issue of racism, sexism and homophobia and actively take a stand against it, rather than sitting on the fence. Many aspects of Skin’s image are political without even trying- she is black, she is gay and she is female. Her shaved head and flamboyant fashion was an antidote the mainstream male Brit rockers of the 1990s who intentionally cultivated a more basic, scruffy image. A strong, powerful and intelligent frontwoman was an instant inspiration for a generation of young women.

Skin was also the first black British artist to headline Glastonbury, something we all had to be reminded of when Stormzy was given the title this year.

Skunk Anansie achieved widespread critical acclaim and released a slew of successful singles including Charity; Hedonism, Weak and Charlie Big Potato. The band’s split in 2001 was not the last we saw of Skin. She went on to release two solo studio albums: Fleshwounds (2003) and Fake Chemical State (2006). As a solo artist she has supported Robbie Williams and Placebo on tour; duetted with Pavarotti in front of the Dalai Lama and was even a judge on the Italian version of the X Factor for one season.  

Skunk Anansie reformed in 2008 and have continued to be recognised for their contribution to the British rock scene. You can pick up a copy of their celebratory album 25Live@25 which was released in January this year, as well as a new single What You Do for Love – their first new single in three years.

Continuing the 25th anniversary celebrations Skunk Anansie will be touring Europe throughout the summer of 2019, headlining festivals and their own shows, finishing with a string of UK shows. For a band that have been widely regarded as one of the most exciting live bands you will ever see, it is worth trying to catch them on one of their forthcoming dates. And if you can’t get tickets to see them in person, there is still an extensive back catalogue of absolute bangers to fire you up and tear you apart.

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