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|Birth name||Claudius Afolabi Siffre|
|Born||25 June 1945|
Hammersmith, London, England
|Genres||Soul, jazz, funk, soft rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer, songwriter,|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, keyboards|
|Labels||EMI, Pye, China|
Claudius Afolabi Siffre (born 25 June 1945) is a British singer, songwriter, musician and poet. Siffre released six albums between 1970 and 1975, and four between 1988 and 1998. His best known compositions include "It Must Be Love" (which was famously covered by the band Madness), "Crying Laughing Loving Lying", and "(Something Inside) So Strong". His music has been sampled extensively by hip-hop artists, including Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. Siffre has published essays, the stage and TV play Deathwrite and three volumes of poetry: Nigger, Blood on the Page and Monument.
Early life and education
Claudius Afolabi Siffre was born as the fourth of five children at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in Hammersmith, London to a British mother of Barbadian–Belgian descent and a Nigerian father. Siffre was brought up in Bayswater and Hampstead and educated at a Catholic independent day school, St Benedict's School, in Ealing, West London. Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist. He studied music at the Eric Gilder School of Music in Wardour Street, Soho. Gilder is remembered with gratitude in his poem "education education education".
He released six albums between 1970 and 1975. In the 1970s, he released 16 singles, three of which became hits: "It Must Be Love" (No. 14, 1971) (later covered by and a No. 4 hit for Madness, for which Siffre himself appeared in the video); "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" (No. 11, 1972); and "Watch Me" (No. 29, 1972). In 1978, Siffre took part in the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest. He performed his own composition "Solid Love", which placed fifth of the twelve songs up for consideration at the A Song for Europe contest. Additionally, he co-wrote the song "We Got It Bad" performed by Bob James, which came tenth.
Siffre came out of self-imposed retirement from music in 1985, when he saw a television film from Apartheid South Africa showing a white soldier shooting at black children. He wrote "(Something Inside) So Strong" (No. 4, 1987) and released four more albums between 1988 and 1998.
Different parts of Siffre's 1975 track "I Got The..." were sampled in popular hip hop music songs in the 1990s, most notably in the 1999 Eminem single "My Name Is". As a result of the song's newfound fame, it was finally released as a single in 2006. In 2020, The AMC TV series Better Call Saul included a part of "I Got The..." in the season 5 soundtrack.
Siffre met Peter John Carver Lloyd in July 1964. They remained together until Lloyd's death in 2013, having entered a civil partnership in 2005, as soon as this was possible in the UK. In 2014 Siffre appeared on the BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives, championing the life of British author Arthur Ransome. Siffre said that Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books had taught him responsibility for his own actions and also a morality that has influenced and shaped him throughout his life.
- Labi Siffre (1970)
- The Singer and the Song (1971)
- Crying Laughing Loving Lying (1972)
- For the Children (1973)
- Remember My Song (1975)
- Happy (1975)
- So Strong (1988)
- Man of Reason (1991)
- The Last Songs (1998)
- Monument (Spoken Word) (1998)
- "The Vulture"(1975)
- The Last Songs (Re-mastered)" (2006)
UK charting singles
- "It Must Be Love" (No. 14, 1971)
- "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" (No. 11, 1972)
- "Watch Me" (No. 29, 1972)
- "(Something Inside) So Strong" (No. 4, 1987)
Cover versions of Siffre's songs
- Olivia Newton-John covered "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" in 1975 on her album Clearly Love. Also, Siffre and Newton-John duetted on a live version of her number one hit "You're the One That I Want".
- Madness covered "It Must Be Love" in 1981. The song reached Number 4 in the UK charts and Number 33 in the U.S. in 1983. Labi Siffre also made a cameo appearance in the music video.
- "(Something Inside) So Strong" was covered by Kenny Rogers in 1989 (and became the title track to a hit album). The song was also covered by Vanessa Bell Armstrong in 1988 and again by a host of gospel artists as a tribute to Rosa Parks in the mid-1990s. It was covered by "eternal" in 1994 as part of their EP Crazy. In late 2009, it also featured in the hit BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey, where it was adapted into a Welsh chapel christening ceremony.
- Kelis covered "Bless the Telephone" for her sixth studio album Food in 2014.
- RJD2's song "Making Days Longer", from his album Since We Last Spoke, is a cover of Siffre's "Bless the Telephone", from The Singer and the Song. Siffre is credited as writer of the original song in the liner notes.
- Blank & Jones covered "Down" for their 2007 chill-out album Relax Edition Three.
- Joss Stone covered "I Got The..." on her sixth album The Soul Sessions Vol. 2.
- Rod Stewart covered "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" on his 1995 compilation Handbags & Gladrags (Mercury UK).
- Move4Parkinson's Voices of Hope Choir covered "Something Inside So Strong" in April 2013 to commemorate World Parkinson's Day. The song reached Number 1 in the Irish R&B iTunes chart.
- Greta Van Fleet performed "Watch Me" at Lollapalooza Argentina 2019, at Lollapalooza Brazil 2019, and again on 18 May 2019 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA.
- Jimmy Fallon and Tariq Trotter of The Roots lip synced "Bless the Telephone" on an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2019.
- Tanya Donelly recorded "Bless the Telephone" as part of her Sunday Series during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
- Fatboy Slim sampled Rosetta Hightower's cover of Labi Siffre's "A Little More Line" (from his 1970 debut album Labi Siffre) for the song "That Old Pair of Jeans" on Fatboy's 2006 album Why Try Harder,
- Kanye West used a sample of "My Song" in "I Wonder" on his album Graduation.
- Jon Kennedy used samples of "Bless the Telephone" (from his 1971 album "The Singer and The Song") in "Tell Me How You Feel" from the 2001 album We're Just Waiting for You Now.
"I Got The..."
The song "I Got The..." has especially been heavily used by hip hop artists. Artists who have sampled different parts of the song include:
- Jay-Z, on the song "Streets Is Watching" from the 1997 album In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.
- Def Squad, on the 1998 single "Countdown" from their album El Niño.
- Eminem on the 1999 single "My Name Is" from the album The Slim Shady LP.
- Primal Scream, on the song "Kill All Hippies" on their 2000 album XTRMNTR.
- Miguel on the song "Kaleidoscope Dream", from the 2012 album of the same name.
- Wu-Tang Clan, on the 1994 single "Can It Be All So Simple", from the album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
- Nigger (Xavier Books 1993)
- Blood on the Page (Xavier Books 1995)
- Monument (Xavier Books 1997)
- DeathWrite (Xavier Books 1997)
- Choosing the Stick They Beat You With (Penguin 2000)
- "Labi Siffre, the black, gay musician whose music helped make Eminem famous". The Independent. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
- Larkin, Colin (2002) The Virgin Encyclopedia of 70s Music p.398. Virgin, 2002, ISBN 978-1852279479
- "Q&A: Labi Siffre". New Humanist. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
I've always been an atheist. I've never had religious belief. Pre-teens, I assumed God was in the same make-believe category as Father Christmas; a game of pretend between children and grown-ups.
- Side, Jeffrey (1997). "Labi Siffre Interview". The Argotist. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
- Into the light, poems
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 498. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Mathur, Paul (August 1989). "So Strong". Spin: 32. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- Jones, Lucy (27 September 2012). "When Sampling Goes Wrong". NME. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
- "Celebrating World Parkinson's Awareness Day – 11th April". Move 4 Parkinsons. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
- "Jimmy Fallon and Tariq Trotter "Bless the Telephone"", YouTube, retrieved 19 January 2020
- Sunday Series #2, retrieved 19 April 2020
- "Jon Kennedy's 'Tell Me How You Feel' – Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled.