Category Archives: Music Herstory

You don’t have to say you love her…. but Dusty Springfield is one of the most successful British artists of all time

Molly Tie continues her Music Herstory series

Known for her soulful, unique voice; her flawless sense of graceful style and her taboo-challenging personal life, Dusty Springfield is considered one of the doyennes of British recording artists and vocalists, frequently named by music journalists, publications and pop culture commentators as one of the greatest vocalists of all time.

It came as a great disappointment to me to find out that ‘Dusty’ was not the name on Springfield’s birth certificate. Instead, she was raised Mary Isobel O’Brien in April 1939 in Hampstead, London. Her family were all music enthusiasts and Mary developed a love of singing from a young age. She joined her first band The Lana Sisters aged 19 in 1958 and then a more folk-inspired outfit with her brother Tom called The Springfields. She took the stage name ‘Dusty’ from her childhood nickname which she earned by playing about in the dust with the boys as a child.

After cutting her musical chops in these bands, she began her solo career in 1963 with her first single (and one that remained one of her greatest hits) I Only Want to be With You. Once the hit seal was broken, they kept coming- Wishin’ and Hopin’ (1964); I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself (1964), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (1966) and Son of a Preacher Man (1968). Her debut album A Girl Called Dusty was released in 1964. In 5 short years, Dusty Springfield has released several of the most popular and recognisable pop hits of the 1960s.  

Dusty Springfield’s career spanned 40 years and over that time she won most accolades available and was one of the most successful singers in the world. She had 6 top 20 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 and 16 on the UK Singles Chart. Not many British, female artists (particularly from the 1960s) have ever matched that feat.

Springfield was distinctive in both voice and style. In terms of her look, she was rarely seen without a towering blonde bouffant and quintessentially 60s make up and evening gowns. Vocally, her mezzo-soprano had a unique tone that made all of her tracks instantly recognisable as a Dusty hit. Her trademark was striking a balance between powerful, strong vocal holds that simultaneously communicate vulnerability and yearning. Her voice was considered sexy too- a breathless quality that is both feminine and resolute.

Springfield was an avid fan of American music- mainly R&B, Motown girl bands and artists with the Phil Spector signature sound. Dusty and her cohorts were labelled ‘Blue Eyed Soul’- a term used to describe white artists that sang in the R&B tradition. Some R&B radio stations would refuse to play songs by white artists but as time went on, those rules were relaxed for artists that were considered to have the right attitude or ‘soul’. The term was applied to artists such as Sonny and Cher, Tom Jones and The Righteous Brothers.

Springfield wanted to be taken seriously as a soul artist and demonstrate her love for the genre. To that end, she went to Memphis, Tennessee and recorded Dusty in Memphis with a production team from Atlantic Records- the record label for US R&B and soul artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Otis Redding. The album was released in 1969 and was an incredible hit and to this day has been voted as one of the greatest albums of all time by the likes of Rolling Stone, VH1, NME and Channel 4.

Dusty tried to emulate the Phil Spector ‘Wall of Sound’ production principles in many of her recording sessions with the inclusion of horn sections, backing singers, double-tracked vocals- all facets that are common in girl band recordings of the time.

By the 1970s, Dusty Springfield was a bona fide superstar. She continued to record and perform and was still going strong in the 1980s. In the latter part of that decade, she struck up a friendship with The Pet Shop Boys which led to numerous collaborations. In 1987, she duetted with Neil Tennant on the song What Have I Done to Deserve This? Tennant, who was at the height of PSB fame, was thrilled to duet with Springfield, citing her Dusty in Memphis album as one of his all-time favourites. She recorded the song Nothing Has Been Proved for the 1989 film Scandal which was a to 20 hit. She rode this momentum by recording the album Reputation- this was her third top 20 studio album.

Springfield’s personal life and beliefs also kept her in the spotlight over the years. Speculation abounded that Dusty was gay and she did have several well-known relationships with women. She was also a much-loved figure in the gay community due to her dramatic style and emotional performances. Based on Dusty’s own comments on the subject, she was attracted to both men and women. She had documented relationships with singer Norma Tanega; US photojournalist Faye Harris; singer Carole Pope and actress Teda Bracci.

She was politically progressive and once had to cut a tour of South Africa short due to being deported for playing in front on an integrated audience which was forbidden under the apartheid regime. She was a supporter of animal rights charities, mainly due to her love of cats.

Unfortunately, substance misuse and mental health issues did impact Springfield throughout her life. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hospitalised several times due to self-harm.

Dusty Springfield passed away in 1999 aged 59 after a battle with breast cancer. She leaves behind a consistently successful career and remains one of the most iconic vocalists of all time and the poster child of the Swinging 60s.

The Chicks are alright: The Dixie Chicks flying a flag for liberal values in a hostile environment

Molly Tie continues her Music Herstory series

Country music is associated with a lot of things- the Southern states of America; men in cowboy hats plucking away at banjos; worship of the red-white-and-blue and entrenched patriotism.

Some things that Country music is NOT associated with are- left wing, progressive politics, criticism of US government foreign policy and political protest.

But this is to fundamentally misunderstand country music and its radical roots. Country music comes from a tradition of protest, challenge and controversy and although this may have been lost in contemporary Country, some artists still demonstrate these early values.

One thing that country music has been quite good at, is having a fair share of female representation in its repertoire of commercially successful artists. Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Leann Rimes and of course Taylor Swift are some of the best-selling and most successful female artists of all time, and that includes from any genre. Dolly Parton has her own theme park for goodness sake! Country has produced some absolute megastars and there is a lot of money to be made and records to be sold.

One of the most successful Country music groups to come out of the last 30 years is The Dixie Chicks- three musicians from Dallas, Texas who have sold over 30 million albums worldwide, won 13 Grammys and have become part of the enduring legacy of American Country music, part of the fabric of the musical history of the USA.

The Dixie Chicks formed in 1989 in their home-state of Texas and comprise of siblings Emily Robison and Martie Maguire with Natalie Maines on vocals. In true Country music tradition, the members of the band can play an impressive array of traditional bluegrass instruments between them including fiddle; mandolin; viola; banjo and dobro (no me neither but apparently dobro is a type of guitar). They followed in the tradition of Country artists before them in honing their musical prowess by playing live; writing songs that tell stories of love and life in small town America and looking to fund their own recording as quickly as possible. In 1990 they spent $5000 to record their first album- Thank Heavens for Dale Evans– and a glittering and influential career was born.

The Dixie Chicks have released an impressive 8 studio albums from 1990. The band did have an extended recording hiatus between 2006 and 2019 however, although they did not record an album as a band in that time, they continued to perform shows together and work on their solo projects. They are accomplished musicians in their own, individual right with Maguire competing in National Fiddling Championships and the members regularly playing multiple instruments on stage and in the studio.

The Dixie Chicks are no strangers to tackling difficult and challenging topics in their songs which makes them closer to the true roots of Country music than a lot of other contemporary country artists. Their most famous single was 2000s Goodbye Earl, a song that documents the lives of two high school friends- Wanda and Mary Ann. Wanda experiences domestic abuse at the hands of the eponymous Earl and after attempting unsuccessfully to get protection through the courts, she enlists the help of Mary Ann to poison Earl by lacing his Black Eyed Peas with a toxic substance. The song was considered controversial and many radio stations refused to play it.

The Dixie Chicks have never been afraid to express their political opinions and there have been instances where they have experienced an inevitable backlash from the more conservative corners of Country music artists and fans. The most notable being their denouncing of President Bush whilst they were performing in the UK in 2003. They criticised the decision to go to war in Iraq and stated they were ashamed of the then-President. The Chicks had violated an unwritten rule of American Patriotism for public figures- you do not criticise the President whilst on foreign soil. A swift backlash ensued with the Dixie Chicks being blacklisted from many radio stations; their sponsors being pressured to drop them and receiving the cold shoulder of many of their musical peers.

However, they were not perturbed. Natalie Maines put her head above the parapet again by criticising the chart-topping country hit Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue by star Toby Keith. The song is a macho love letter to the Armed Forces and revels in the sheer brute force that American troops can flex on their overseas enemies. Maines stated:

I hate it. It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture—and not just the bad people who did bad things. You’ve got to have some tact.

Maines has also been an active critic of the conviction in 1994 of the West Memphis Three- three teenagers who were accused of murdering three children in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Many felt the conviction was the result of Police bungling the initial investigation and wanting scapegoats which they found in the form of three awkward, goth teenagers who were marginalised and misunderstood by the small town they grew up in. This criticism of the judgement of the US Justice System has cemented the Dixie Chicks frontwoman as a progressive and challenging voice in a genre of music that has come to be synonymous with conservatism.

Musically, The Dixie Chicks are a delight to listen to. Maine’s Texas accent makes her storytelling feel authentic as well as being capable of beautiful harmonies with her bandmates that make songs such as When You Were Mine and Travellin’ Soldier bring a tear to your eye. The lyrical skill in telling so many stories of love, loss and redemption is palpable across their back catalogue which is varied and numerous.

Politically, The Dixie Chicks have weathered many controversies and PR nightmares and those who criticise them for being too politically challenging obviously don’t know much about the origins of Country and Bluegrass music. Country music was pioneering in telling the stories of those who had no voice and was never a friend to the elites in government. On that basis, and in the context of modern America and where Country music sits in that landscape, The Dixie Chicks are more radical and rebellious than most rock and punk musicians around now.

The Ice(landic) Queen: Bjork and the method behind the madness

Molly Tie continues her Music Herstory series

Björk is one of those artists – no, in fact, one of those humans – who defies all previously existing knowledge and sense. She still looks 18 years old but she’s actually 54. On paper, her music doesn’t seem like the sort of sound that would get worldwide, mainstream success but she’s one of the most recognisable and successful female artists of all time. Her switch to acting should have gone the way in often does when singers turn to film – a bit shaky. But instead, she won the 2000 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress for her role in Dancer in the Dark. She’s a creative powerhouse; a style icon and considered a little bit on the kooky side. Is there anything she can’t do?

First a bit of background. Björk Guðmundsdóttir was born in Iceland in 1965 to two very politically active parents – her mother was a prominent political activist and her father was a local union leader. She has always had a flare for music and has trained classically on instruments such as the flute and piano. Her talent for vocals was spotted at an early age – she had her first recording contract at 11 and released her first album at the same age (self-titled Björk in 1977).

Björk has been experimenting with different genres from the beginning- in the 1980s she dabbled in punk (in all-girl band Snot) and jazz (Exodus) as well as performing more avant garde style experimental spoken-word scores with Icelandic poets.

Björk’s career has been one of collaboration. She has been in numerous bands (other than those mentioned above, she was notably in a band called The Sugarcubes in the late 1980s) and spent her early career working with various Icelandic producers and musicians on a variety of projects.

However, in the early 1990s, Björk left the Sugarcubes, moved to London and pursued a solo career. Her debut solo album Debut was released in 1993 and was widely well-received. So much so, that in 1994 Björk won two Brit Awards – one for Best International Female and one for Best Newcomer.

Björk has been prolifically producing music since then. She has made 10 solo studio albums as well as countless other collaborations, guest appearances, bespoke experimental projects and writing credits. Some music has charted, other releases perhaps only known to those who follow her particularly closely. Either way, she continues to record, release and perform and 99% of the time, to much critical acclaim.

Björk is an artist who is perhaps better known by most people for her visuals and aesthetics than for her musical nuance. Her videos are surrealist and trippy; her outfits are bold and expressive (of course we all remember the Swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards – the Lady Gaga meat dress of its time) and her image and sound changes with the wind. I have always considered her to be a more futuristic, abstract Kate Bush with the musical range of a PJ Harvey and a slightly cuddlier weirdness than Grace Jones.

Her private life has been, for the most part, just that- private. She’s not one for giving heartfelt tell-all interviews to OK! Magazine whilst sprawled on her sofa clutching her children but we do know some basics. She is politically active and supports a variety of left-wing, progressive causes such as environmental protections, self-determination for various nations fighting independence struggles such as Kosovo and Tibet. She has used her platform to raise money for several disaster relief appeals following natural disasters such as the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004.

Björk’s career has had a major impact on European music and her eclecticism runs through both her musical output and visual style. Björk broke ground in the electronic scene by pushing the boundaries and interweaving other musical styles as well as her impressive soprano vocal range. Unapologetically weird, Björk encouraged and celebrated all forms of creativity through all mediums, acting as a mentor to several musical acts including Iranian producer Leila Arab and Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq. Björk champions diversity via the projects she pursues and her fearless striving for effortless individuality has made the musical world a little bit more magical.

Slick by name, Slick by nature

by Mollie Tie

Grace Slick has been everything at some point in her career: Sixties hippy chick icon; Seventies rock goddess; visual artist and general musical icon. With one of the most powerful and pure voices in popular music, Slick has earned her place on the list of most influential vocalists in modern music.

Grace Barnett Wing was born October 30, 1939 and spent most of her childhood moving around various parts of the state of California. This early exposure to the Golden State goes some way to explain how Slick came to typify that psychedelic 60s sound that was quintessentially West Coast. Along with The Doors; Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead, Grace Slick pioneered an entirely new genre of music which defines a whole decade.

Grace started her music career as the singer in the band The Great Society.  The band generated quite the following in their native California, and it was whilst singing for the band that Slick composed the song White Rabbit – THE seminal psychedelic rock song that is one of their biggest hits to this day.

In 1966, Slick left Great Society for Jefferson Airplane, attracted by the more professional way the band was run. They re-recorded and released some of their more famous songs including White Rabbit and Somebody to Love both of which became top 10 singles. Jefferson Airplane became one of the most popular bands in the country and earned Slick a position as one of the most prominent female rock musicians of her time. Although they were not a particularly political band, it was not unheard of for Slick to make a political statement-the most well known of which took place in 1968 when she ended a performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour by making a Black Power fist.

A personnel change in Jefferson Airplane led to Slick forming a breakaway group called Jefferson Starship whilst also releasing several solo albums. Her solo album Dreams was inspired by her experience going through a substance misuse programme and as her most personal album, was nominated for a Grammy.

Jefferson Starship had several hits – We Built This City; Sara and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. These songs are instantly recognisable and still incredibly popular however Slick was not happy with the musical direction and left the band in 1988.

Slick has been pretty much ensconced in retirement since the mid 1990s and mainly spends her time as a visual artist. She has been outspoken about the fact that she feels too old to maintain her position as rock goddess- in a 2007 interview, she repeated her belief that, “You can do jazz, classical, blues, opera, country until you’re 150, but rap and rock and roll are really a way for young people to get that anger out”, and, “It’s silly to perform a song that has no relevance to the present or expresses feelings you no longer have.”

Slick has been no stranger to controversy throughout her career. Her widely documented struggles with alcoholism were a cause for concern and led to some unfortunate incidents of being too inebriated to perform and being dragged off a game show after abusing the contestants.

Despite the occasional controversies, Slick’s legacy is one of an incredibly gifted singer and super cool rock chick. She was one of the earliest female rock stars with an electrifying stage presence that influenced the likes of Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett.

She was ranked number 20 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll in 1999 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Her vocal performance on the track Somebody to Love is one of the finest examples of rock vocals in modern music and the early Jefferson Airplane tracks that were composed by Slick provided a gold standard that rock chicks would follow for generations.

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.

Dream a little dream … of Mama Cass

by Mollie Tie

Next stop on our epic journey of re-visiting some of popular music’s underrated women, we must go back to the 1941 when Ellen Naomi Cohen was born in Maryland, USA. From birth to her untimely death in 1974, Cohen’s life had it’s harrowing difficulties along with some ground-breaking triumphs. The product of this amazing, and ultimately too short life was a body of work that includes soul, heart and sass.

Cohen is better known to the music world as Mama Cass- one quarter of the musically brilliant yet personally troubled Mamas and the Papas, as well as a successful and critically acclaimed solo artist. She was one of the figureheads of a body positivity movement before anyone even knew what that was, and was the life and soul of the trendy music scene of the 60s- partying hard and singing softly.

Cass started her pursuit of an entertainment career in New York City, trying out for musicals whilst working in cloak rooms and scraping by. She moved to Washington D.C to go to University and her arrival coincided with an American Folk renaissance which led to her joining her first band- The Big 3. The Big 3 only lasted for a couple of years (62-64) and Cass’s next venture- The Mugwumps- lasted a matter of months.

In 1965, Cass finally joined the group that would make her a worldwide star- The Mamas and the Papas. The group enjoyed worldwide success with hits such as California Dreamin’; Monday, Monday and Dedicated to the One I Love and carved out a niche in popular folk music that had mainstream appeal. Their harmonies were sophisticated, and Cass was certainly the most well-known figurehead of the group with many lead vocal roles.

The Mamas and The Papas released their final album in 1971 and Cass went on to enjoy acclaim as a solo artist as well as well-loved media personality. She was a regular on variety shows and talk shows and was booked for a 3-week residency at Las Vegas Caesars Palace. She was well regarded as having a vivacious disposition and a great sense of humour.

However, behind her sunny persona and musical success Cass experienced several turbulent events following her joining the Mamas and Papas. It is generally understood that she was in love with her band mate Denny Doherty and had even proposed marriage to him. Alas, Doherty was ensconced in an affair with Michelle Phillips (another member of the band) and a complicated love triangle ensued.  She also had her struggles with substance misuse, a situation not helped by her intense recording and performing schedules.

Despite the rollercoaster ride that was Cass’s life; her talent was always on strong ground. Vocal academics highlighted her immense vocal range and enviable control and her rendition of the 1931 song Dream a Little Dream of Me is one of the most popular versions of the classic song which has also been recorded by  Louis Armstrong; Nat King Cole; Doris Day and Michael Bublé to name a few.

Mama Cass experienced a lot of comment and speculation regarding her weight. Since her death, her daughter has spoken in interviews about the impact of fat-shaming in the press had on her mother and how this spurred her on to not only achieve her own dreams but encourage other women as well. Her Mamas and Papas bandmate Michelle Phillips remembers that Cass was always encouraging her to push herself vocally and not to let men in the music industry push her around.

She decided at 25 that she wanted to raise a child and as she was unmarried at the time, it was a bold choice to make even in the swinging 60s. She kept her pregnancy secret and by all accounts was a dedicated and loving mother to her daughter, even dedicating her song Lady Love to her:

“I have my little someone to hold onto …  a little girl to set me free. … She came along just in time / in time to ease my worried mind / and now I’ve got a little someone to hold on to.”

Tragically, Mama Cass passed away from heart failure in a London hotel room, age just 32. It was a life and musical career cut heartbreakingly short.

Her legacy lives on- not just in terms of her solo career and the example this set to subsequent female vocalists; but also the body of work the Mamas and The Papas leave behind. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009. Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips, as “the Mamas”, were ranked No. 21 on the VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock- but Mama Cass will always be in my top 10. Dream a little dream…… of Mama CassHer legacy lives on- not just in terms of her solo career and the example this set to subsequent female vocalists; but also the body of work the Mamas and The Papas leave behind. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009. Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips, as “the Mamas”, were ranked No. 21 on the VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock- but Mama Cass will always be in my top 10.

God save the Queen: Queen Latifah and the making of a hip-hop Renaissance woman

by Molly Tie

If democracy falls and the whole world is run by a pan-national monarchy made up of musicians with regal titles, who will rule us?  I guess the contenders are King Crimson; Prince; Duke Ellington and Queens of the Stone Age. But I hope that our supreme leader will be the indomitable Queen Latifah because her career has shown she is an irrepressible badass.

Latifah has turned her hand to all sorts of things – rap music, acting, song-writing and producing – and she has been pretty successful at all these things. Understanding Latifah’s rise to fame through a notoriously macho rap music scene makes her success even more impressive and her early credibility means we can sort of forgive her for being in a film called Taxi with Jimmy Fallon. Sort of.

Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens in New Jersey in 1970. She had a fairly standard middle-class upbringing- attending Catholic school and playing in her high school basketball team due to her height.

From the age of 18, she started beat boxing for a hip-hop outfit called Ladies Fresh. She was signed to Tommy Boy Music in 1989 and released her first single Wrath of My Madness. The song showcases themes that would be present in many of her later recordings- traditional hip-hop flexing and showboating mixed with her strong female proclamations. This would recur throughout her musical career- waving the flag for female musicians and demonstrating that women can rap with the best of them.

Her first album All Hail the Queen was released the same year as her first single and the songs were very much a chronicle of the black woman’s experience from relationships; harassment in the streets and working-class struggles. Songs like Ladies First became feminist anthems with lyrics like this:

Who said the ladies couldn’t make it, you must be blind
If you don’t believe, well here, listen to this rhyme
Ladies first, there’s no time to rehearse
I’m divine and my mind expands throughout the universe
A female rapper with the message to send the
Queen Latifah is a perfect specimen.

Latifah collaborated with a who’s who of late 80s hip hop- KRS-One, De La Soul and Monie Love and her debut album was considered a commercial success.

Latifah continued to release rap and hip-hop tracks throughout the 90s but by the early 2000s, she turned her attention towards more traditional singing. As she was a big jazz fan, she began to perform more soul and jazz music and released an album of such tracks in 2004 with The Dana Owens Album. Her 2007 album Trav’lin’ Light was nominated for a 2007 Grammy. It is a testament to her standing in the music industry that moving between different genres never lost her any of her core fans or professional credibility.

Queen Latifah is probably best known now for her acting roles. She has appeared in numerous comedy films and TV programmes, most notably Hairspray (2007); 22 Jump Street (2014) and Girls Trip (2017). She can also be seen popping up in TV shows such as 30 Rock and her own Queen Latifah Show which ran for 2 seasons.

A list of Latifah’s award nominations from the early 1990s onwards could fill a small novel and she has been recognised for her talent and integrity in most areas of the arts.

She has had her fair share of controversy although never to the same extent as some of her hip hop contemporaries such as Lil Kim or Foxy Brown. In 1996 Latifah was arrested for possession of marijuana and a handgun and then in 2002 was arrested for driving under the influence. Other than that, she has managed to keep her personal life relatively low profile and as such is known for her creative output rather than any personal turmoil.

Whether or not you’re a royalist, I think this is one Queen we can all get behind.