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 60)
Greenock, Scotland
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Instruments
  • Vocals
Years active1983–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitejimmysomerville.co.uk

James William Somerville (born 22 June 1961)[1] 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.[2] He is known in particular for his powerful and soulful countertenor/falsetto singing voice. Many of his songs, such as "Smalltown Boy", contain political commentary on homosexual issues.[3]

Early life[edit]

Somerville grew up in Glasgow in the 1970s. In 1980 he moved to London, where he lived in squats.[4] He immersed himself in the homosexual scene , and attended the London Gay Teenage Group.[5]

Career[edit]

In 1983, Somerville co-founded the synthpop group Bronski Beat,[1][6] which had several hits in the British charts. Their biggest hit was "Smalltown Boy", which reached No. 3 in the UK charts.[1] In the music video Somerville plays the song's titular character, who leaves his hostile hometown for the friendlier city, reflecting Somerville's own experiences when he moved to London.[5]

Somerville left Bronski Beat in 1985 and formed The Communards with classically-trained pianist Richard Coles, now a Church of England vicar and broadcaster.[7] They had several hits, including a cover version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way",[1] 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 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,[1] 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. In the same year he provided vocals on The Number One Song in Heaven for the Sparks album Plagiarism with production by Tony Visconti. His third album, entitled Manage The Damage, was released in 1999 via Gut Records, but 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, again not charting.

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.[4][8] Singles were "Back to Me" followed by "Travesty". The emphasis in recording the album was 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."[9]

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").[10]

In February 2021, Somerville teamed up with producer Sally Herbert (formerly of 1990s duo Banderas and also part of The Communards' backing band) to record a cover of "Everything Must Change" by Nina Simone as a charity record for End Youth Homelessness, a network of projects which includes Centrepoint in London and a number of other homeless charity organisations around the UK.[11][12]

Discography[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

With Bronski Beat[edit]

With The Communards[edit]

Awards[edit]

Awards Year Work Category Result Ref.
Brit Awards 1985 Bronski Beat British Group Nominated [13]
"Smalltown Boy" British Single of the Year Nominated
1987 "Don't Leave Me This Way" Nominated [14]
1991 Himself British Male Solo Artist Nominated [15]
British Film Institute 1984 Framed Youth Grierson Award Won [16]
RSH Gold Awards 1991 Himself Power Groove of the Year Won [17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Smith, Christopher. "Where Are They Now? Jimmy Somerville". Talk About Pop Music. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  2. ^ Walters, Barry (20 June 2000). "His beat goes on – singer Jimmy Somerville". The Advocate. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  3. ^ "1984. Music: Bronski Beat, Smalltown Boy | Gay in the 80's: LGBT History". Gayinthe80s.com. 21 June 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b Shepherd, Fiona (3 March 2015). "Jimmy Somerville on loving his new album, Homage". Scotsman. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  5. ^ 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. Williams, Clifford (2021). "Courage to Be: Organised Gay Youth in England 1967-90". The Book Guild Ltd. ISBN 9781913913632.
  6. ^ "Jimmy Somerville official biography". Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  7. ^ Stanford, Peter (10 January 2010). "Revved Up: Richard Coles, a Very Modern Vicar". The Independent. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  8. ^ Martin, Laura (28 February 2015). "Jimmy Somerville Interview: "I Wanted People To Love Me"". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  9. ^ Jimmy, Somerville. "Homage (Limited Edition)". bandcamp.com. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Lexx: The Dark Zone Stories Girltown (TV Episode 2000) - Full Cast and Crew". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  11. ^ "Jimmy Somerville Supports Plight of Youth Homelessness with Nina Simone Cover | LBBOnline". www.lbbonline.com. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  12. ^ "Homelessness charity launches new campaign with Jimmy Somerville". Classic Pop Magazine. 24 February 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  13. ^ "Brit Awards 1985". Brit Awards. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  14. ^ "Brit Awards 1987". Brit Awards. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Brit Awards 1991". Brit Awards. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Jimmy Somerville – Awards". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  17. ^ "RSH Gold '91". RSH (in German). Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2021.

External links[edit]