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Armatrading, Joan

Joan Armatrading after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, 2001.
AP/Wide World

(born December 9, 1950, Basseterre, St. Kitts) singer-songwriter, the first black among the first British females to make an impact performing her own compositions. First touted by the critics in the 1970s, she maintained a devoted audience into the 21st century, especially in the United Kingdom.

As a child, Armatrading emigrated with her family from the West Indies to Birmingham, England. After studying piano and guitar as a youth, she won a role in a touring production of Hair, through which she met Pam Nestor, another West Indian immigrant, with whom she began composing songs. After collaborating on a first album with Nestor in 1972, Armatrading began working solo, winning critical acclaim with Joan Armatrading (1976), which cracked the U.K. Top 20 and featured the Top 10 single “Love and Affection.” Armatrading's romantic, bittersweet lyrics conveyed in her rounded, expressive voice dominated a series of best-selling albums, notably Show Some Emotion (1977), To the Limit (1978), Me Myself I (1980), and Walk Under Ladders (1981). Her music blends folk, reggae, and jazz with rock, which dominated The Key (1983). Thereafter, though Armatrading's sales dipped somewhat, she remained a critic's darling, an unwavering favourite with her dedicated listeners in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and an important influence on later singer-songwriters. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.

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