Joan Armatrading at Blues Festival, Byron Bay 2013.
Joan Armatrading at Blues Festival, Byron Bay 2013. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Armatrading’s power

IT'S HARD to believe it's 40 years ago since I was a young 18-year-old running the room bar at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London's Soho.

Paid the princely sum of one pound a night, we all relied on tips to make a living, so when Ronnie announced that he'd booked this girl called Joan Armatrading for 12 nights in March 1973, we were all worrying we'd be paying to go to work.

Needless to say, our worries were unfounded.

From the first second Armatrading launched into Cool Blue Stole My Heart, we were hooked.

I remember even today how we all stopped what we were doing and watched her, spellbound at the voice filling the club with its raw power.

It took only a few days before the word spread - record scouts came in their droves (she signed with A&M while she was doing the gig as I recall), and soon there were queues around the block to get in and see this latest phenomenon.

No mean feat when you think Ronnie's hosted the likes of Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and even Count Basie and his orchestra, all during the few years I worked there.

For me, Armatrading touched a chord - I bought her first LP, and have remained a faithful follower ever since, and for my money Hearts and Flowers is one of the most beautiful albums of all time.

So there I am at Bluesfest (which had the most amazing line-up of people this year), with my 12-year-old daughter and her friends, listening to one of the people, who - although she has no idea about this - has seen me through many good, bad and sad times.

It's true that her voice might not soar the heights it once did, but it didn't matter, nothing could mar the feeling of connection and the pleasure of sharing my love of her music with the next generation.

For me, above all else, that's what Bluesfest is all about - sharing Santana, Roger Hodgson and the Steve Miller band with my kids, and being introduced by them to The Lumineers (extraordinary), Ben Howard (startling) and Kim Churchill (watch this space). How on earth will they top this year's bill for their 25th festival?

I can't wait to see.



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