Labi Siffre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Labi Siffre
Birth nameClaudius Afolabi Siffre
Born (1945-06-25) 25 June 1945 (age 75)
Hammersmith, London, England
GenresSoul, jazz, funk, soft rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter,
poet, writer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1970–present
LabelsEMI, 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[edit]

Claudius Afolabi Siffre[1] was born as the fourth of five children at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in Hammersmith, London to a British mother of BarbadianBelgian 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.[2] Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist.[3][4] 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".[5]

Musical career[edit]

Siffre played jazz guitar at Annie Ross's jazz club in Soho in the 1960s as part of a Hammond organ, guitar, drums house band.[3]

He released six albums between 1970 and 1975. In the 1970s, he released 16 singles,[citation needed] 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).[6] 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.[7] He wrote "(Something Inside) So Strong" (No. 4, 1987)[6] 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.[8] In 2020, The AMC TV series Better Call Saul included a part of "I Got The..." in the season 5 soundtrack.

Personal life[edit]

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.[3] 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.


Studio albums[edit]


  • "The Vulture"(1975)

Live albums[edit]

  • The Last Songs (Re-mastered)" (2006)

UK charting singles[edit]

Cover versions of Siffre's songs[edit]


"I Got The..."[edit]

The song "I Got The..." has especially been heavily used by hip hop artists. Artists who have sampled different parts of the song include:



  • 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)


  1. ^ "Labi Siffre, the black, gay musician whose music helped make Eminem famous". The Independent. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002) The Virgin Encyclopedia of 70s Music p.398. Virgin, 2002, ISBN 978-1852279479
  3. ^ a b c "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.
  4. ^ Side, Jeffrey (1997). "Labi Siffre Interview". The Argotist. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  5. ^ Into the light, poems
  6. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 498. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ Mathur, Paul (August 1989). "So Strong". Spin: 32. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  8. ^ Jones, Lucy (27 September 2012). "When Sampling Goes Wrong". NME. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Celebrating World Parkinson's Awareness Day – 11th April". Move 4 Parkinsons. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  10. ^ "Jimmy Fallon and Tariq Trotter "Bless the Telephone"", YouTube, retrieved 19 January 2020
  11. ^ Sunday Series #2, retrieved 19 April 2020
  12. ^ "Jon Kennedy's 'Tell Me How You Feel' – Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled.

External links[edit]