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Jimmy Somerville

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Jimmy Somerville
Somerville performing at Let's Rock 2015,
held at Ashton Court Estate, Bristol, UK.
James William Somerville

(1961-06-22) 22 June 1961 (age 63)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actor
Years active1983–present
Musical career
Formerly of

James William Somerville (born 22 June 1961)[1] is a British pop singer and songwriter from Glasgow, Scotland. He sang in the 1980s with the synth-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 gay-related issues.[3]

Early life


Born on 22 June 1961, James William Somerville grew up in Ruchill, a neighbourhood of northern Glasgow.[4] In 1980, he moved to London, where he lived in squats.[5] He immersed himself in gay culture, and attended the London Gay Teenage Group.[6]



In 1983, Somerville co-founded the synth-pop group Bronski Beat,[1][7] which had several hits in the British charts. Their biggest hit was "Smalltown Boy", which peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart.[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.[6]

Somerville left Bronski Beat in 1985 and formed The Communards with classically-trained pianist Richard Coles, who became a Church of England vicar and broadcaster.[8] 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 song "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 reggae 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.

"I don't think it's fair to tell your audience that you're gay, but that you're not going to acknowledge it in your primary form of creative expression. It's an unfortunate manipulation of honesty that collects gay dollars without an even exchange. But my intention is not to help people live in oblivion. It is to be honest. And that is far more important than gold-selling records"

—Somerville interviewed by Billboard weeks before launching Dare to Love.[9]

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 at the Skarpa club in Warsaw, Poland, June 2006

Somerville released a disco-inspired album called Homage in 2015.[5][10] 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."[11]

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").[12][unreliable source]

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 Benard Ighner 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.[13][14]


Studio albums

Awards and nominations

Award Year Nominated work Category Result
BFIGrierson Awards 1984 Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts Best Documentary Won [A]
Brit Awards 1985 Bronski Beat Best British Group Nominated [B]
"Smalltown Boy" Best British Single Nominated
1987 "Don't Leave Me This Way" Nominated [C]
1991 Himself Best British Male Artist Nominated [18]
R.SH Gold Awards "To Love Somebody"[19] Power Groove of the Year Won [D]
Scottish Music Awards 2014 Himself Special Recognition Award Honored [E]
The listed years are of the annual ceremonies, usually recognizing achievements for the previous calendar year.
Online polls
Queerty Awards 2014 "Travesty" Earworm of the Year Nominated [23]


  1. ^ Shared with Trill Burton, Jeff Cole, Rose Collis, Nicola Field, Toby Kettle and Pom Martin.[15]
  2. ^ Shared as Bronski Beat.[16]
  3. ^ Shared as the Communards.[17]
  4. ^ R.SH Gold was an annual music show (1998 – 2000), held in Northern Germany by Radio Schleswig-Holstein, a state private station. The event that took place at the Ostseehalle in Kiel, the radio's base, awarded the most successful local artists of the past year, based on their top positions on the R.SH Nordparade chart (founded in the region in 1996). The 4th ceremony featuring Somerville was held on 16 February 1991, while broadcast the 28th via RTL Plus.[20]
  5. ^ Also known as the Tartan Clefs.[21][22]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e Smith, Christopher (11 April 2019). "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. ^ Exclusive interview with Jimmy Somerville: 'A huge part of Soho's culture and history has gone – it's been wiped off the map, Ray Kinsella, Madame Soho, 17 November 2015
  5. ^ a b Shepherd, Fiona (3 March 2015). "Jimmy Somerville on loving his new album, Homage". Scotsman. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Jimmy Somerville official biography". Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  8. ^ Stanford, Peter (10 January 2010). "Revved Up: Richard Coles, a Very Modern Vicar". The Independent. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  9. ^ Larry Flick (4 March 1995). "Sommerville's Back In A 'Heartbeat' | Single Leads Off London's 'Dare To Love'" (PDF). Billboard. PMC. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 February 2023.(p. 33)
  10. ^ Martin, Laura (28 February 2015). "Jimmy Somerville Interview: "I Wanted People To Love Me"". The Independent. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  11. ^ Jimmy, Somerville. "Homage (Limited Edition)". bandcamp.com. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Lexx: The Dark Zone Stories Girltown (TV Episode 2000) - Full Cast and Crew". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Jimmy Somerville Supports Plight of Youth Homelessness with Nina Simone Cover | LBBOnline". www.lbbonline.com. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Homelessness charity launches new campaign with Jimmy Somerville". Classic Pop Magazine. 24 February 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  15. ^ "British Film Institute Awards (UK) > 1984 Awards". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 6 June 2023. Grierson Award (see 'WINNER' and the listed names)
  16. ^ "Brit Awards > History > 1985". Brit Awards. BPI. 11 February 1985. brits.co.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2023. Best British Group" and "Best British Single (only winners published)
  17. ^ "Brit Awards > History > 1987". Brit Awards. BPI. 9 February 1987. brits.co.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2023. Best British Group (only winner published)
  18. ^ Fielder, Hugh (22 December 1990). "Programmers Debate The Brits: 'Not Enough' New Talent" (PDF). Music & Media. Léon ten Hengel. worldradiohistory.com. Retrieved 8 June 2023. Best Male Artist (see section 'BRITS 1991 NOMINATIONS', p. 5)
  19. ^ "Musikdatenbank – Musiker Jimmy Somerville". Radio Swiss Pop (in German). SRG SSR. radioswisspop.ch. Retrieved 6 June 2023. RSH-Gold, 1991: Kategorie „Kraftrille des Jahres" – Lied: To Love Somebody (see section 'Auszeichnungen')
  20. ^ "R.SH-Gold (Die Show der Goldpreisträger)". Fernsehserien (in German). imfernsehen GmbH & Co. KG. 28 February 1991. fernsehserien.de. Retrieved 6 June 2023. (see the 4th ceremony from 1991)
  21. ^ Lyons, Beverley (2 December 2014). "Tartan Clef Awards: Bronski Beat star Jimmy Somerville tells why he was proud to receive award in Glasgow 30 years after leaving". Daily Record (Scotland). Reach plc. dailyrecord.co.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2023. The former Bronski Beat star made a homecoming visit to Glasgow to pick up a Tartan Clef at the Scottish Music Awards [...] The singer was given a People Make Glasgow special recognition award
  22. ^ Hegarty, Tasha (30 November 2014). "Idlewild and Prince among winners at Scottish Music Awards". Digital Spy. Hearst UK. digitalspy.com. Retrieved 6 June 2023. The 16th annual Scottish Music Awards took place on Saturday [...] The ceremony was held at Glasgow's Old Fruitmarket, as the Tartan Clefs were handed out to some of Scotland's most celebrated acts. The Special Recognition Award was given to Bronski Beat's Jimmy Somerville for his contribution to Scottish music. (see paragraphs 1 – 3)
  23. ^ "2014 Queerties > Categories". Queerty. Q.Digital. queerty.com. Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2023. Earworm of the Year (see the listed nominees)