This year marks 25 years of a stellar musical career for Queen of UK Soul, Beverley Knight. As she celebrates her huge milestone with the release of a special new album; BK25: Beverley Knight with The Leo Green Orchestra at The Royal Festival Hall, we take a stroll through her impressive music and stage career.
A Solid Music Career
Beverley exploded onto the UK R’n’B music scene in the mid-90s with ‘Flavour of The Old School’ and seemed destined to be a real force in Brit-funk. However, by the time she reached the mid-2000s with her platinum-selling career retrospective Voice – The Best of Beverley Knight, it was clear that she had already cemented her place as the UK’s Queen of Soul.
Wolverhampton born, Beverley has been one of the UK’s most consistent artists for two decades, scoring several Top 10 albums. She has sold more than a million albums in the UK along the way, including four gold certified albums.
She was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2007 for services to British music and charity, has won three MOBO Awards, and been nominated for Best Female at the Brit Awards three times and for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
In the summer of 2012, Beverley wowed a one billion viewing audience with an outstanding rendition of the song “I Am What I Am’, in the finale of the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony.
“She did, however, experience a backlash at being cast for the role. In response to a critic who said she didn’t have the right skin colour she replied: “You mean like the hundreds of years of white actors playing Othello, Cleopatra, any number of Asian characters… like that?””
In recent years, Beverley has forged an impressive parallel career in theatre. Her highly acclaimed West End debut was in the starring role as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard in 2013. Her powerful vocals have mesmerised audiences and critics alike.
In 2014 she received an Olivier Award Nomination as Best Actress in a Musical for her much praised role, of Felicia Farrell in the Tony winning hit show Memphis The Musical. The production won Best New Musical at the 2015 What’s On Stage Awards and received more Olivier nominations than any other West End show in 2015.
In October 2015 at the request of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, she joined the cast of Cats, playing the iconic role of Grizabella for an 11-week run at The London Palladium.
In 2017 she reprised the lead role in The Bodyguard in another successful run of the production in both London and Toronto.
In September 2018, Beverley starred in a new show, ‘Sylvia’, at London’s iconic Old Vic Theatre, in which she played the role of the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst to huge acclaim. She did, however, experience a backlash at being cast for the role. In response to a critic who said she didn’t have the right skin colour she replied: “You mean like the hundreds of years of white actors playing Othello, Cleopatra, any number of Asian characters… like that?”
Her outstanding vocals and live performances have gained her a legion of celebrity fans over the years, from David Bowie to Prince, Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones, to name a few.
In fact, it was the late David Bowie who first told her she would be a major star. In an interview with a daily paper, she said: “The first time I met him, he came to my show with his wife, Iman. They sat up on the balcony and Iman was going crazy, dancing all night. People in the audience couldn’t believe Bowie had turned up to this little gig by this fairly unknown singer.
“And then he came backstage. My dressing room was pretty much a toilet, but he was so relaxed. He told me that one day I was going to be huge. After that, we would meet up at concerts. He always called me “Little Aretha”, which was possibly the biggest compliment anyone could have given me, let alone David Bowie. The last time I saw him was at one of his concerts and we had a long chat about black hair and hair weaves. He knew so much about it and was asking me who did the best weaves in London. He was this amazing artist, but so totally down to earth.”
In her enduring musical career, Beverley has collaborated on stage and on record with the likes of Prince, Jamiroquai, Bryan Adams, Ronnie Wood, Carlos Santana, Andrea Bocelli, Jools Holland, Jamie Cullum, Joss Stone, Take That and Chaka Kahn.
More than just a great singer, Beverley has also co-written some of her biggest hits. Over the years, her esteemed collaborators have ranged from Guy Chambers and Chris Martin to Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Jimmy Hogarth.
The down-to-earth singer has a desire to ‘give back’ and is an ambassador for many charities such as Christian Aid with whom she has travelled to areas affected by disease and poverty to help raise awareness. She is an active campaigner for anti-AIDS organisations and a patron of The Terrence Higgins Trust.
The Latest Album
This anniversary album, out on 8 November 2019, via Warner Music UK, brings to life, with a live orchestra, all of Beverley’s hits including the Top 10 smash ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’, ‘Keep This Fire Burning’, ‘Come As You Are’, ‘Made It Back’ and ‘Greatest Day’. Fans are also treated to three new studio tracks including the single ‘Now or Never’, Wild River’ and ‘Never Like This’ (duet with Jocelyn Brown).
The much-loved ‘Flavour of The Old School’, Beverley’s first ever hit, is out now, marking the 25th anniversary of the single going to radio in 1994.
The BK25 album, recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall with The Leo Green Orchestra , allows Beverley’s powerhouse vocals to take full flight on a musical journey like no other. The album captures the essence of what the public loves so much about Beverley – her energy and consistency as a dynamic live performer.
As well as her own hits, BK25 also includes a nod to Beverley’s best-known theatre performances ‘Memory’ (Cats) and ‘I’m Every Woman’ (The Bodyguard).
There’s no hiding the fact that we are true fans of Beverley Knight and while she has had huge success in her career, we feel that her talent has been overlooked in certain areas and should have elevated even more. We raise a glass to Beverley Knight, a true British soul music icon. We look forward to more music for many great years to come from our very own Queen of Soul. We salute you Beverley!
Article written by Traci Aina