Soundtrack Of My Life: Skin

Skunk Anansie singer and British rock icon

The first album I bought

Nina Simone – ‘Little Girl Blue’

“I bought it in Brixton market, because I knew the boy selling them and I thought he was cute. I’d never heard of Nina Simone, and I didn’t hear it for quite some months because I wasn’t allowed to go in the front room as a kid, because it was perfect. I’d snuck it under the bed for six months! I never got the boy either. He only flirted with me so I’d buy the record…”

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The song that reminds me of home

Tammy Wynette – ‘Stand By Your Man’

“My mum used to play this all the time when I was really young. I think I must have been around eight. Black people love country and western music.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Michael Jackson – ‘Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough’

“I find it really difficult to listen to Michael Jackson. I keep trying but I can’t. When I was little, I had a picture of him with his big afro on my wall. It was the only poster I’ve had in my whole life of anyone on the wall. I think he made incredible music, but I went off him in the ’90s. I saw the Netflix thing about him, and when I met him I thought he was creepy. But obviously the music will be there until the end of time. I just can’t shake all the stories about him.”

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The song I wish I’d written

Billie Holliday – ‘Strange Fruit’

“As a songwriter, to have written something that will keep being retold in different ways and different versions is a beautiful idea. I heard this song throughout my childhood, and I loved it. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I really checked the lyrics. When you’ve known a song all your life, it’s like an ornament on your mantelpiece. And then one day you take off the ornament, clean it up and realise it’s made out of diamonds. I felt like that when I actually sat down and read the lyrics. I didn’t realise what she meant by “strange fruit”, she’s talking about Black men hanging from trees. That just hit me like a ton of bricks. Billie Holliday sang it when people were being lynched, and then Nina Simone sang it during the Civil Rights movement. And we’re always getting to the point where someone can sing it now again. We’re coming full circle in terms of racism and fascism and white extremism on the rise.”

The song I do at karaoke

Bon Jovi – ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’

“I’ve done karaoke twice in my life and I’ve hated every second. But if I had to pick a song, it would be this one.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Lana Del Rey – ‘Summer Bummer’ (feat. A$AP Rocky & Playboi Carti)

“I keep playing it on my radio show. This record has just got so much Blackness to it. On that album, she manages to nod with what was happening without losing her own soul or making the record too 2017. It’s much better than the new one, to be honest.”

The song that makes me want to dance

CHIC – ‘Everybody Dance’

“If you can’t get up and dance to this one, you’re dead. There’s something missing in your life.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Jeff Buckley – ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’

“I kind of err towards playing something that would depress everybody and make them want to slit their wrists but then I’m also thinking of one that might be like, ‘Ah it’s alright you know, just get over it, just be happy.’ I feel like Spike Milligan, he said he wanted to write on his tombstone: ‘I told you I was ill.’ So half of me would want to make it fun and jovial. This sits in between – it’s not too sad, not too happy.”

The song that changed my life

Betty Davis – ‘He Was A Big Freak’

“It was the first time I’d heard a song that was similar to what I wanted to be and do. It’s got Black funk all over it. The way she sings – half rock, half funk. She’s got this grimy, dirty, high-pitched voice that isn’t singing but just trying to express itself. The groove, the musicianship, it was incredible. She was very strong, very Black, very female, very sexy, and just owned it all by doing her thing. I thought, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”

‘Skin: It Takes Blood And Guts’, the Skunk Anansie singer’s new memoir, is out now

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