Jimmy Somerville

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Jimmy Somerville
Somerville at Let's Rock Bristol 2015
Somerville at Let's Rock Bristol 2015
Background information
Birth nameJames William Somerville
Born (1961-06-22) 22 June 1961 (age 59)
Greenock, Scotland
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
Years active1983–present
Associated acts

James William Somerville (born 22 June 1961) is a Scottish pop singer and songwriter. He sang in the 1980s with the pop groups Bronski Beat and The Communards, and has also had a solo career.[1] He is known in particular for his powerful and soulful countertenor/falsetto singing voice. He is gay; many of his songs, such as "Smalltown Boy", contain political commentary on gay-related issues.[2]

Early life[edit]

Somerville grew up in Glasgow in the 1970s. In 1980, he moved to London where he lived in squats.[3] He immersed himself in gay culture, and attended the London Gay Teenage Group.[4]


In 1983, Somerville co-founded the synthpop group Bronski Beat,[5] which had several hits in the British charts. Their biggest hit was "Smalltown Boy" which reached No. 3 in the UK charts. In the music video Somerville played the song's titular character who leaves his hostile hometown for the friendlier city, reflecting Somerville's own experiences when he moved to London.[4]

Somerville left Bronski Beat in 1985 and formed The Communards with classically trained pianist Richard Coles (now a Church of England vicar and broadcaster).[6] They had several hits, including a cover version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way", which spent four weeks at No. 1 in the UK charts and became the biggest-selling single of 1986 in the UK. He also sang backing vocals on the Fine Young Cannibals' version of "Suspicious Minds", which was a UK Top 10 hit.

The Communards split in 1988; Somerville began a solo career the following year. He released his debut solo album Read My Lips in November 1989, which contained three UK Top 30 hits, including a hit cover of Sylvester's disco classic "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and a cover of "Comment te dire adieu?", a duet with June Miles-Kingston, which reached number 14 in the UK Singles chart. He also sang on the second Band Aid project at the end of 1989.

In November 1990, Somerville's "greatest hits" album The Singles Collection 1984/1990 (which featured his hits with Bronski Beat and The Communards in addition to his own material) was released; it reached number 4 on the UK Album Chart. It included a cover of the Bee Gees' hit song "To Love Somebody", which also reached the UK Top 10. Also in 1990, Somerville contributed the song "From This Moment On" to the Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization, the proceeds from which benefited AIDS research.

In 1991, Somerville provided backing vocals to a track called "Why Aren't You in Love With Me?" from the album Ripe by Communards offshoot band Banderas. The Banderas duo, Caroline Buckley and Sally Herbert, had previously been part of Somerville's backing band. After this, he disappeared from the limelight for several years. He returned in 1995 with the album Dare to Love, which included "Heartbeat" (a UK Top 30 hit and a No. 1 hit on the US dance chart), "Hurt So Good" and "By Your Side", though commercial success was now beginning to elude him and his contract with London Records to which he had been signed for over a decade came to an end.

A new single, "Dark Sky", was released in 1997 and peaked at No. 66 in the UK. His third album, entitled Manage The Damage, was released in 1999 via Gut Records, though failed to chart. A companion remix album, Root Beer, came out in 2000. His dance-orientated fourth solo album, Home Again, was released in 2004, though again failed to chart.

May 2009 saw the release of Somerville's Suddenly Last Summer album, which contained acoustic interpretations of other people's songs. The album was initially only available as a digital download but in May 2010 was made available in a limited edition (3,000 copies) CD/DVD in the UK. In late 2010, Somerville released a dance EP called Bright Thing.

2010's EP Bright Thing was the first of a series of three, with Somerville releasing Momentum in 2011 and Solent in 2012, with long term collaborator John Winfield.

Somerville released a disco-inspired album called Homage in 2014.[3] Singles were "Back to Me" followed by "Travesty". The emphasis on the recording of the new album has been on achieving the musical authenticity of original disco which Somerville grew up listening to. He stated 'I've finally made the disco album I always wanted to and never thought I could'.[7]

He has also had an acting career, appearing in Sally Potter's 1992 film of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, in Isaac Julien's 1989 Looking for Langston, and in an episode of the cult science fiction television series Lexx ("Girltown").[8]


Solo albums[edit]

with Bronski Beat[edit]

with The Communards[edit]


Year Nominated work Award Category Result
1984 Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts British Film Institute Grierson Award Won[9]
1991 Himself BRIT Awards Best British Male Nominated[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walters, Barry (20 June 2000). "His beat goes on – singer Jimmy Somerville". The Advocate. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  2. ^ "1984. Music: Bronski Beat, Smalltown Boy | Gay in the 80's: LGBT History". Gayinthe80s.com. 21 June 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Shepherd, Fiona (3 March 2015). "Jimmy Somerville on loving his new album, Homage". Scotsman. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b "1984. Music: Bronski Beat, Smalltown Boy | Gay in the 80's: LGBT History". Gayinthe80s.com. 21 June 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014. "London Gay Teenage Group in LGBTarchive". Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Jimmy Somerville official biography". Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  6. ^ Stanford, Peter (10 January 2010). "Revved Up: Richard Coles, a Very Modern Vicar". The Independent. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  7. ^ Jimmy, Somerville. "Homage (Limited Edition)". bandcamp.com. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Lexx: The Dark Zone Stories Girltown (TV Episode 2000) - Full Cast and Crew". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Jimmy Somerville – Awards". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  10. ^ "The BRITs 1991". British Record Industry Trust. BRIT Awards. brits.co.uk. Retrieved 29 February 2012.

External links[edit]