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Career Biography

Young KirstyKirsty MacColl was born in Croydon, South London on 10th October 1959.  Her father was the legendary folk singer Ewan MacColl, but she grew up seeing him only at weekends, being raised by her dancer/choreographer mother, Jean Newlove along with brother Hamish.  Being older, it was Hamish's record collection which the young Kirsty commandeered to immerse herself in the sounds of the Beach Boys and Neil Young, which she credited with inspiring her love of harmonies and songwriting skills.

In 1978, Kirsty joined a minor league band called the Drug Addix, and on the back of some demos for Stiff Records, Kirsty was auditioned as a solo singer and, having none, had to come up with a song pronto - so she wrote "They don't know", and it became her first single in June 1979, and later a big hit for Tracey Ullman.

In 1981 she hit No. 14 in the UK chart with "There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis", a witty rocking number pointing the finger at lying scoundrels everywhere, a theme she would return to with relish throughout her songwriting life.

Desperate CharacterAn album, "Desperate Character", was released featuring a collection of snappy Kirsty songs along with a few covers of 60s songs.  It didn't trouble the charts, and was in fact unknown to all but her most long serving and devoted fans from the time.  In late 1984 she made the Top 10 with her version of Billy Bragg's "A new England".   Her knack for spotting a killer song and her persuasiveness in having the song's author write an extra verse just for her paid off with what would be the biggest solo chart success of her career.  

Charles Dickins shotThree years later, Kirsty got to No. 2 in the chart performing with the Pogues on the now perennial Christmas hit, "Fairytale of New York", but having met husband Steve Lillywhite at a Simple Minds session in 1983 she largely spent the second half of the 80s raising her two sons Jamie and Louis, with periodic appearances as a backing singer for a range of top acts of the day before returning to the studio with Virgin for the 1989 release of what many still consider to be her best album, "Kite".  

With MorrisseyIn 1991 she teamed up with Smiths guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr on much of her next album, "Electric Landlady".  This was heralded by the track many Americans know best, "Walking down Madison"; the album also featured Kirsty's first fully formed attempt at using a Latin approach (kindled by her work in New York on a David Byrne album) with the always popular "My affair" before being dumped by Virgin and hitting a slump including the breakup of her marriage to Steve Lillywhite.

On Scottish TVNot being one to give up however, Kirsty bounced back in 1994 with her "sad divorce album", "Titanic Days".   Featured was a song which was to become one of her fans' favourites and the inspiration for their memorial bench gesture years later - "Soho Square".  Kirsty later said that had she realised how much people liked it she would have chosen to include the  song on her "Galore" retrospective in 1995.  The album was largely low key, yet beautiful.  

In CubaThen everything went quiet as far as the record buying public were concerned.  During this spell though, Kirsty was finding her feet again having almost decided to give up the music business completely, getting busy and touring South America and Cuba extensively.  In early 1999 Kirsty fell in love again with saxophonist James Knight (brought in originally to teach her son) and started to work on a bunch of new material which she'd started out in Brazil and in Cuba, meshing Latin rhythms to the traditional knowing lyrics and great tunes which comprise "Kirsty songs".  She proclaimed herself "a Latin soul trapped in an English body" and got to work in Pete Glenister and Dave Ruffy's studio in Bermondsey.

Rocky Schenck promo shotThe resulting tracks, featuring samples from Kirsty's by now extensive collection of Cuban records brought back from her numerous trips, were to become acclaimed as her finest hour - the album "Tropical Brainstorm".  Kirsty assembled a stunning touring band complete with horn section and ebullient Colombian bass player.  

Rocky Schenck promo shotShe had already started work on her next album and was working on various side projects when she decided to take a well earned break after a year of promo and touring, going to México with her partner and two sons.  On December 18th 2000 her love of diving cost Kirsty her life when a large speedboat hit her off the coast of Cozumel island.  The following days her photo was prominent on almost all the British newspapers and it became apparent how substantial her support amongst the public was, though she had only latterly begun to appreciate it herself.  At her public memorial service, major rock stars and television actors mingled freely with the public, everyone united in their grief.

Her music lives on as testimony to her skills as a wordsmith and arranger of lasting quality songs.  Her qualities as a person live on in the memories of her family and friends. 

Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of Kirsty's career can be found in her web site www.kirstymaccoll.com


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