The Argotist Online
in Dunfermline, Scotland, Barbara Dickson began her singing career in folk clubs
around her native Fife in the 1960s, which exposed her to a rich combination of
traditional and contemporary music.
the early 1970s, she sang at a Liverpool folk club, run by a young student
teacher called Willy Russell. He showed her the first draft of what would later
become the award winning musical, John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert
and asked her to perform the music for the show live on stage. The combination
of fine writing, a superb cast of young unknowns (including Antony Sher, Bernard
Hill and Trevor Eve) together with her idiosyncratic interpretation of Beatles
songs made the show a smash hit, and a lengthy West End run followed.
show’s co-producer, Robert Stigwood, signed her to his record label, RSO
Records, where she recorded the album Answer
Me, the title track becoming a top ten hit in 1976. This led to her
guest residency on the much-loved BBC TV series The Two Ronnies, which
brought her singing to the attention of more than 10 million viewers every week.
impressed by her performance in John Paul George Ringo… and Bert were
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who invited her to record ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ from their new musical Evita,
which went on to become her second hit single in 1977. Other hits including
‘The Caravan Song’ and ‘January, February’, followed in 1980.
1982, Willy Russell invited her to star in his new musical Blood Brothers in the pivotal role of Mrs. Johnstone. Although
at first reluctant to accept, having never acted before, (not even in a school
play!), she rose to the challenge, in the process garnering critical acclaim as
well as winning ‘Actress of the Year in a Musical’ from the Society of West
End Theatres in 1984.
that year, Tim Rice approached her to take part in the original cast album
recording of the musical Chess, which included the song ‘I Know Him So
Well’, a duet sung with Elaine Paige. Released as a single in early 1985, the
song became a huge hit worldwide and remained at the number one spot in the UK
singles charts for many weeks.
the 1990’s, as well as pursuing her music career, she appeared in several
leading TV dramas including Taggart, two series of Kay Mellor’s
award-winning Band of Gold and, for the BBC, The Missing Postman
opposite James Bolam and Alison Steadman.
writer and director Chris Bond created a new stage show for her in 1996 entitled
The Seven Ages of Woman. Premiering at the Liverpool Playhouse, it went
on to tour extensively in 1997 and 1998 and won her the Liverpool Echo
‘Actress of the Year Award’.
1999 and 2000, she starred in Spend,
Spend, Spend, a new musical by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, based
on the roller coaster life story of the infamous 60’s football pools winner
Viv Nicholson. The show played in the West End to capacity audiences and for her
portrayal of Viv, she was awarded ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ at the 2000
Laurence Olivier Awards.
well as her acclaimed acting work, she has continued to concentrate on her first
love—music. In 2004 she released Full Circle, which saw the beginning
of her highly successful ongoing musical association with Troy Donockley who
arranged and produced the album. Full Circle, which marked a return to
her folk roots, earned her some of the best reviews of her career, with The
Daily Telegraph noting: ‘it is no exaggeration to describe [her] as a
great singer… without dismissing the work she has done in the other three
decades of her career, this is Dickson at her most engaging’. She followed
this in 2006 with Nothing’s Gonna Change my World, a specially
commissioned eclectic collection of the songs of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.
most recent album, Time and Tide, released in 2008, features both
traditional and contemporary songs, and continues the Celtic themes explored in
her musical partnership with Troy Donockley. She says, ‘this has been my most
exciting musical venture for years. I have loved every moment of the creative
process in making this album’. An accompanying live DVD, Into the Light,
has also been released featuring her hits, together with some of her own
favourite songs and tracks from her most recent albums.
saw her celebrating 40 years as a professional musician and she marked the
occasion with another lengthy sold-out UK tour as well as concert dates in
Ireland. She also made a return to acting with a guest role in the BBC TV drama
long-awaited autobiography, A Shirt Box Full of Songs was published by
Hachette Scotland in October 2009.
has been made an Honorary Doctor of Music by Robert Gordon University in
Aberdeen as well as a Fellow of Liverpool’s John Moores University and a
Companion of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts bestowed by Sir Paul
McCartney. In 2002, the Queen’s Jubilee Year, Dickson was conferred with an
O.B.E. for her services to music and drama in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours
As a multi-million selling recording artist with an equally impressive Olivier award-winning acting career, Barbara Dickson has now firmly established herself as one of the most popular, enduring and versatile performers in the UK. However, not content to look back on past successes—‘I’ve no time for nostalgia’ she says firmly—as she enters her 41 st year in the music business she shows no signs of slowing down. Asked about the highlight of her remarkable career, she says ‘I don’t know, it hasn’t happened yet!’…
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?
Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?
A: No, when I was at school, I learned poetry for what it is. I have a love of it still, because of that part of my education. However, I rather like when musicians put poetry to music and see what happens!
Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?
No, I work from direct experience in songs. Feelings and recollections are
mostly my way.
copyright © Barbara Dickson