Joan Anita Barbara Armatrading, MBE (born 9 December 1950) is a British singer, songwriter and guitarist. Armatrading is a three-time Grammy Award-nominee and has been nominated twice for BRIT Awards as Best Female Artist. She also received an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection in 1996. In a recording career spanning almost 40 years she has released a total of 17 studio albums, as well as several live albums and compilations.
Armatrading first performed in a concert at Birmingham University for her brother at the age of about 16. She only knew her own songs, but her brother asked her to perform something that would be familiar to the audience; she chose "The Sound of Silence". She then performed her own songs around the local area with a friend from school, and played bass and rhythm guitar at local clubs. In 1968, Armatrading joined a repertory production of the stage musical Hair. There she met the lyricist Pam Nestor in 1970, and they worked together on Armatrading’s debut album Whatever’s for Us, released by Cube Records in 1972. Nestor wrote the lyrics to eleven of the fourteen songs on the album, while Armatrading wrote the lyrics to three of them, performed all the vocals, wrote all the music and played an array of instruments on the album. Although Nestor was credited as co-lyricist, Cube considered Armatrading to be the more likely star material. These events produced a tension which broke up the partnership. In 1973 Armatrading’s first single "Lonely Lady"(with lyrics by Nestor), a song that had not been included on the album, was released by Cube on the Fly Label (catalogue: Bug 31). It was unsuccessful in the charts. A period of inactivity for Armatrading followed, while she extricated herself from her contract with Cube Records. The single was subsequently withdrawn by Cube and re-released as a promotional single in the US by Armatrading’s new label A&M Records, the same year, as A&M1452.
In January 1974 she appeared on the BBC Radio 1 John Peel Show performing "Show Some Sort Of Love Song", "Lonely Lady" and "Freedom". Armatrading sang and played acoustic guitar and piano. Supporting musicians were Snowy White (guitar), Mike Tomich (bass) and Brian Glassock (drums).
In 1975, Armatrading was free to sign with A&M Records, and issued the album Back to the Night, which was promoted on tour with a six-piece jazz-pop group called The Movies. Armatrading credited English singer Elkie Brooks on the sleeve notes as she had cooked for Armatrading and the band in the studio while they had been making the album, which was produced by Brooks’ then husband Pete Gage. A major publicity relaunch in 1976 and the involvement of producer Glyn Johns propelled her next album, Joan Armatrading, into the Top 20 and spawned the Top 10 hit single "Love and Affection". The album mixed acoustic work with jazz-influenced material, and this style was retained for the 1977 follow-up Show Some Emotion, also produced by Glyn Johns, as was 1978’s To the Limit. These albums included songs which continue to be staples of Armatrading’s live shows, including "Willow", "Down To Zero", "Tall in the Saddle", and "Kissin’ and a Huggin". Also at this time, Armatrading wrote and performed "The Flight of the Wild Geese", which was used during the opening and end titles for the 1978 war film The Wild Geese. The song was included on the soundtrack album for the film, originally released by A&M Records, later released under licence as a Cinephile DVD. A live album entitled Steppin’ Out was released in 1979.
In the 1970s Armatrading became the first Black British female singer/songwriter to enjoy international success.
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