Elkie Brooks

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Elkie Brooks
Birth nameElaine Bookbinder
Born (1945-02-25) 25 February 1945 (age 73)
OriginBroughton, Salford, Lancashire, England
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • keyboards
Years active1960–present
LabelsIsland, A&M, Stang,
Associated acts

Elkie Brooks (born Elaine Bookbinder, 25 February 1945)[3] is an English singer, a vocalist with the bands Dada and Vinegar Joe, and later a solo artist. She gained her biggest success in the late 1970s and 1980s and has been nominated twice for Brit Awards. She is known for her powerful husky bluesy voice and hit singles such as "Pearl's a Singer", "Lilac Wine", "Don't Cry Out Loud", "Fool (If You Think It's Over)", and "No More the Fool", and top-selling album Pearls. She is generally referred to as the "British Queen of Blues".[4][5] By April 2012, Brooks had released more albums that had reached the top 75 of the UK Albums Chart than any other solo British female artist, but this has since been equalled by Kate Bush.

Life and career[edit]

Early career and Vinegar Joe[edit]

Brooks was born Elaine Bookbinder in Broughton, Salford, the daughter of Marjorie Violet "Vi" (née Newton) and Kalmon Charles "Charlie" Bookbinder. She was raised in Prestwich. She attended North Salford Secondary Modern School.[citation needed]

Her older brother is Anthony Bookbinder (born 28 May 1943), who went by the stage name of Tony Mansfield, and was drummer for Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas, on their run of 1960s hit records.[citation needed]

According to Brooks, her unofficial debut was a gig at a club called the "Laronde" on Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, when she was 13 years old. She first sang professionally at the age of 15, and her first record, a cover of Etta James's "Something's Got a Hold on Me", was released on Decca in 1964. Brooks spent most of the 1960s on Britain's cabaret scene, a period of her life that she did not particularly enjoy.[6] In the mid 1960s she supported the Beatles in their Christmas show in London, then, as an established act, helped the Small Faces in their early career by introducing them at several venues. She went on to tour the United States with several bands, including the Animals. She also toured the then communist Poland with Jon Lord's Artwoods.

After she met Pete Gage, whom she would marry, she joined the short-lived fusioneers Dada before forming Vinegar Joe with Gage and Robert Palmer. Brooks gained the reputation as the wild woman of rock 'n' roll due to her wild stage performances.[7] After three albums, they split up in 1974, and Brooks and Palmer pursued separate solo careers. After a time as backing singer with the American southern boogie band Wet Willie, she returned to England.

Solo career and chart success[edit]

Her first solo album on A&M records was Rich Man's Woman (1975). It was released to critical acclaim, but Brooks was given a hard time because of the album's cover, which was considered outrageous for the time.

It came before a run of 16 albums in 25 years, starting with Two Days Away (1977), produced by the songwriting duo Leiber & Stoller, who had also worked with Elvis Presley and many others. Brooks also wrote some tracks with them. The hits "Pearl's a Singer" and "Sunshine After the Rain" came from this album. That same year, Brooks duetted with Cat Stevens in the song, "Remember the Days of the Old Schoolyard". The albums Shooting Star (1978) and Live and Learn (1979) also saw success along with the singles "Lilac Wine" and "Don't Cry Out Loud".[8] However, her polished, powerful cover of Gallagher and Lyle's "The Runaway", with the Scottish singer-songwriters themselves on backing vocals, was only a minor chart entry.

In 1980, Brooks performed at the Knebworth Festival with the Beach Boys, Santana and Mike Oldfield.[9] Pearls, released in 1981 achieved the biggest success of her career. "Fool (If You Think It's Over)" was a hit for Brooks taken from this album, written by Chris Rea. Pearls II (1982), Minutes (1984) and Screen Gems (1984), were all UK chart hits.[8]

In 1986, she sang the title song for the BBC television series "A Very Peculiar Practice". The song, written by Dave Greenslade, was never released as a commercial recording.

In early 1987, the song "No More the Fool" became her biggest hit single to date while the parent album reached the top five. This led to her achieving a career peak, as she had two albums and a single in the top ten all on the same week.[10][11] Following chart success ensued with the albums The Very Best of Elkie Brooks (1986), Bookbinder's Kid (1988), Inspiration (1989), Round Midnight (1993), Nothin' but the Blues (1994), Amazing (1996) and The Very Best of Elkie Brooks (1997).[8]

Since 2000[edit]

In March 2003, she participated in the ITV music talent show Reborn in the USA, alongside musicians such as Peter Cox, Tony Hadley and Leee John. Also in 2003 she issued a CD, Trouble in Mind, accompanied by Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band, which included Bad Penny Blues with added lyrics. The Electric Lady album (2005) saw a return to her blues and rock roots, featuring self-penned tracks alongside re-workings of numbers by the Doors, Bob Dylan, Paul Rodgers and Tony Joe White. The following year saw the release of her first official DVD, Elkie Brooks & Friends: Pearls, featuring an array of guest musicians.

By April 2012, Brooks had released more albums that had reached the top 75 of the UK Albums Chart than any other solo British female artist, but this has since been equalled by Kate Bush.[12]

Brooks' twentieth studio album, Powerless, was released in 2010, featuring songs such as Prince's "Purple Rain" and Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love". She continues to perform live throughout the UK and Ireland.[13] In 2012, Brooks released her autobiography Finding My Voice, published by The Robson Press. In it she details her life and career, focusing on her love of performing live and the downsides of the recording business, which has often left her financially no better off.[14]

In July 2017, she issued a new CD Elkie Brooks: The Very Best Of, which included two new songs: "Love Ain't Something that You Can Get for Free" and "Forgive and forget", the latter single being BBC Radio 2's record of the week. Brooks promoted the CD with several appearances on Radio 2 shows and the BBC's The One Show. Later in the year Brooks appeared at the London Palladium, on 19 September, 40 years since her last appearance there in 1977. The appearance marked her 40 years of success since the hit single "Pearl's a Singer" was released.[15]

In 2017, Brooks recorded the closing theme song 'Running to the Future' for the British movie Finding Your Feet, starring Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie and Joanna Lumley. The track was released as a download only single and was included in the soundtrack CD album.

Personal life[edit]

In the early to mid-1970s, Brooks was married to guitarist Pete Gage. On 1 March 1978, she married her sound engineer, Trevor Jordan. They are still married, live in Devon and have two sons, Jermaine (born 22 December 1979) and Joseph (born 31 December 1986).[16] Between 1981 and 2002 they lived in a mansion in a secluded area of North Devon. However, in 1998, after her accountant informed her that he had not been paying her taxes, Brooks found herself in severe debt and was reduced to living in a mobile home. After four years of increasing interest bills and loans, Brooks managed to sell her home (after being threatened with repossession) and cleared all of her debts.[16] Today, all the family are involved in Brooks' career, songwriting and touring.[17]



  1. ^ "Reviews 2". Elkiebrooks.com. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  2. ^ Button, Simon. "Whatever happened to Vinegar Joe singer Elkie Brooks | Life | Life & Style". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  3. ^ Bryan Burnett (30 November 2011). "Music – Elkie Brooks". BBC. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  4. ^ Hunt, Keith (6 September 2013). "Elkie's star is still shining". Kent Online. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Elkie Brooks cancels Huddersfield concert after losing voice". News report. Examiner.com. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  6. ^ Interview on Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, Wednesday, 31 March 2010.
  7. ^ Robin Denselow (9 September 2005). "Elkie Brooks, Cabot Hall, London | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  8. ^ a b c "The Official Charts Company – Elkie Brooks". The Official Charts Company. 5 May 2013. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Rock Concerts". Knebworth House. 20 July 1974. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  10. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. 31 January 1987. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. 31 January 1987. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Elkie is the Queen of British blues". Gloucester Citizen. 17 February 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  13. ^ Gore, Will (12 July 2010). "Elkie to make a splash at Pools". Wimbledon Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  14. ^ North Devon Journal, Elkie Brooks autobiography signing at Waterstones. 30 August 2012 Archived 12 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Elkie Brooks 'Pearls: The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks' - Music News". Music-News.com. 2017-04-13. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  16. ^ a b Finding My Voice, Elkie Brooks autobiography. The Robson Press, 2012
  17. ^ "The Official Site – Biography". Elkie Brooks. Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2013.

External links[edit]