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Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading: CBE honour is from another world

The Caribbean-born, Birmingham-raised musician was made an MBE in 2001.

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Joan Armatrading (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Joan Armatrading (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Joan Armatrading (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading has said it is an “honour” to be made a CBE and that, as a child, she thought the achievement as being from “a different world”.

The prolific recording artist is named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music, charity and equal rights.

Recalling her childhood, she told the PA news agency: “That child didn’t even think.

“That didn’t even come into my head or any part of my space.

“You would hear of people being Sir this and Dame that and CBE this.

“That was just like a different world.

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Joan Armatrading (Andrew Stuart/PA)

Joan Armatrading (Andrew Stuart/PA)

PA

Joan Armatrading (Andrew Stuart/PA)

“They might have well said, ‘And here is somebody from Mars’.

“You just didn’t think you were from Mars, so you weren’t thinking you were going to get one of those things.

“It was never in my plan. I never thought, ‘It would be great if I got one of those’. I wasn’t thinking along those lines.

“Once I got the MBE I might have thought along those lines but certainly before then it had never entered my head at all.

“As I say, it is an honour.

“It is a really nice thing and I am very happy to accept it.”

Armatrading, 69, was born on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts.

Her father was a carpenter and her mother a housewife.

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Joan Armatrading after receiving an MBE from the Prince of Wales (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Joan Armatrading after receiving an MBE from the Prince of Wales (Fiona Hanson/PA)

PA

Joan Armatrading after receiving an MBE from the Prince of Wales (Fiona Hanson/PA)

When she was seven, she moved to Brookfields, then a district of Birmingham, to join her parents, who had moved a few years earlier.

Explaining why she accepted the honour, she said: “I know there are lots of people who refuse the honour, or who think it is not a great idea, but it is a great idea. It’s good.

“I am not one of the ones who would refuse it because I think it is a really nice thing.

“Sometimes people talk about the Empire days.

“I think people have long forgotten that that was the association.

“I think it is just a country acknowledging its citizens of things that they have done that they really recognise as being good things.

“You just have to accept it for that and that is how I accept it.”

On being honoured for her services to equal rights, she said: “Equal rights is about equal rights all round. Just to make sure there is fairness. It’s as simple as that. Fairness all round.

“It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it is equal.

“If two people are doing the same thing…then the fairness of how they are acknowledged just should be there.

“It’s as simple as that for me.

“If you look back at somebody like Nelson Mandela, that is really what he was saying and that was the truth of him.

“It was, ‘Let’s just be fair to everybody’.

“Everything has to have a label and so fairness has the label of equal. That’s how it is.”

Armatrading has continued to release albums since her 1972 debut, Whatever’s For Us.

Her workmanlike attitude to songwriting produced a catalogue of more than 20 albums, winning her three Grammy nominations and an Ivor Novello Award.

She is celebrated for her contralto voice and varied musical style, taking in folk, jazz, blues, soul and rock.

Despite the intimate nature of her lyricism, Armatrading has been reluctant to discuss her personal life in interviews.

Between 2005 and 2010, Armatrading served as president of the Women of the Year Lunches, which work to celebrate women across arts, culture, politics and science.

She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.

Online Editors