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13 March 2024

Beverley Knight: “You’ve Got To Come Out Swinging”

Beverley Knight Christmas Carol Service
Photo: Zefrog/Alamy Stock Photo
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Beverley Knight has spoken about her early days in music, politics and challenging perceptions in a new interview with The Guardian.

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“As a younger woman, I wanted to set out my stall and I didn’t want anything to detract from that,” Knight recalled. “I was deadly serious about the craft. I came out at a time where Black female artists were overwhelmingly from the US. In Britain, you had Sade, who was in a world of her own stratospheric genius, then Eternal, Michelle Gayle, Gabrielle. And that was pretty much it. Then you had this onslaught of American artists, all these tough or sexy girls. But I didn’t come from the streets. I just wanted my music to speak.

“To be fair, I think I was too serious about that, I could have had a bit more fun,” she says. “Now I’ll wear the little booty shorts all day long because I think people have a measure of me and I quite like the idea of being 50 in a tiny skirt saying, ‘I’ll wear what the hell I want.’”

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Knight went on to discuss her musical tastes, “People think they know who I am, musically. People say, ‘Oh I bet you love soul and R&B’ – and they’d be correct. But I also love Radiohead. I think The Clash are phenomenal.

“My tastes are vast and eclectic, but when you start pulling out music that kind of doesn’t fit the stereotype, that’s when people are like, ‘Oh, really?’. They expect me to be a massive Motown fan. I like Motown, but some of it was a bit sweet for me. And I have a deep love of rock. Also, on a stage, people might expect me to be standing there looking statuesque, the archetype of a diva. Or if not, to be sassy and have attitude, to be aggressive and dare I say, not too bright upstairs with a limited vocabulary. But I’m nothing like that.”

“Music was my antidote to politics in a way,” she went on. “And to approach life and people with a smile. If they reject you because you’re Black, because you’re female, because your politics are on the left or because you have an assortment of friends who are all LGBTQIA or whatever, then so be it.

“Everyone else is welcome at a Beverley Knight concert. My church is a broad one. My arms are wide and my heart is open. That’s me, and how I want my music to speak.”

When asked what her favourite thing was, the singer was bullish, “Challenging people’s perspective of me.” As a woman her age, in this world, she said, “you’ve got to come out swinging. And I’ve got some hard-ass gloves.”

Buy Beverley Knight CDs at the Dig! store.

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