She was born Neneh Mariann Karlsson in 1964 in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of West African percussionist Ahmadu Jah and Swedish artist, Moki.
Raised by her mother and her jazz trumpeter stepfather (Don Cherry) in both Stockholm and New York City, she left school at 14. In 1980, Cherry moved to London to sing with a punk group called The Cherries.
At the age of 18, she married drummer Bruce Smith and gave birth to her first daughter, Naima.
Within three years, Cherry had split with Smith, and shortly after that, while fronting a Rip Rig + Panic spin-off band called Float Up CP, she met composer and musician Cameron McVey, who, under the alias Booga Bear, wrote much of the material on Cherry’s 1989 debut LP Raw Like Sushi.
She proposed to him, and they had two daughters, Tyson (1989) and Mabel (1996).
Cherry’s cover Buffalo Stance (it was originally recorded as a B-side by Cameron’s 80s band Morgan McVey) was an international smash of eclectic fusion of pop smarts and hip-hop energy.
After the record’s release Cherry caught Lyme disease and, apart from a version of Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin in 1990, remained silent until Homebrew two years later.
Cherry returned to the charts in 1994 in duet with Youssou N’ Dour on the global hit Seven Seconds. She then took time off to raise her children. She resurfaced with the distinctive album Man in 1996.