Singer/guitarist/songwriter Joan Armatrading was born in St Kitts in the West Indies on 9 December 1950 and raised in Birmingham, England, from the age of seven.
She starred in a local production of the rock musical Hair and formed a songwriting partnership with fellow West Indian immigrant Pam Nester.
Moving to London in 1971, Joan and Pam signed a production and management deal with Cube Records, but when the Gus Dudgeon-produced Whatever’s For Us album appeared, Nester received no label credit and the resultant friction led to the break-up of the partnership and the demise of the Cube deal.
After two years in limbo, Joan was signed to A&M and came up with the Back To The Night album in 1975.
She continued to make records of warm, emotionally resonant music that earned her a devoted following on at least two continents. Joan Armatrading (1976) yielded her breakthrough hit single Love and Affection, while her Show Some Emotion album spent four months on the US charts, breaking her into the American market.
To The Limit (1978) introduced a harder sound, and Me, Myself, I (1980) was both a successful album and a hit single. Her 1983 album The Key spawned another major hit, with Drop The Pilot.
Sleight Of Hand (1986) was Armatrading’s first self-produced album, which she recorded in her own quaintly named Bumpkin studio, and which was remixed by Steve Lillywhite. It was her least successful album in commercial terms since her debut, stalling outside the Top 30 of the UK charts and considerably lower in the US.
The Shouting Stage (1988) was arguably her most impressive album in some time but failed to reach the height achieved by many of its predecessors despite featuring Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Mark Brzezicki of Big Country as guests.
Despite brushes with chart stardom, Armatrading has remained an independent-minded cult star whose remarkable and individual voice, regardless of her albums’ assorted settings, never wavered.
She received an Ivor Novello Award in 1996 and was awarded the MBE in 2001. In April 2011 it was reported that Armatrading and her girlfriend Maggie Butler were to enter a civil partnership in the Shetland Isles.