We are so pleased to have the living legend that is the internationally renowned Dana Gillespie closing the festival for us with the London Blues Band. A must see for fans of Blues, Jazz, Rock, Pop, and good music everywhere. Her 2021 memoir, Weren’t Born A Man, lifted the lid on one of entertainment’s wildest, most adventurous and creative lives.
Dana was born in 1949. Mid-childhood, she moved from the country to central London just as a full-scale blues revival was under way. By 16, she was recording singles for Pye. In 1968, she was signed by Decca, leading to two LPs, the second of which, Box Of Surprises, was written entirely by her. At the turn of the decade, Dana was in the original London cast of two prominent musicals – Catch My Soul and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Simultaneously, she was part of a team of session singers (Elton John, David Byron, Madeline Bell) who recorded soundalike versions of pop hits for Avenue Records. She and childhood friend, David Bowie, were both managed by Tony Defries and his MainMan company.
In 1973, Dana’s third album, Weren’t Born A man, recorded at Trident Studios and produced by Bowie, Mick Ronson, and Dana, came out on RCA. The follow-up, Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle, appeared in 1974 and Dana undertook a US tour in support of it. While Dana was working on demos for her third RCA album, MainMan imploded. Unable to record while still in contract, Dana returned to the UK and sought gigs and acting jobs, appearing in The People That Time Forgot (1977), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1978), Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing (1980) and Mai Zetterling’s Scrubbers (1982). Among the people with whom she acted were Doug McClure, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Denholm Elliott Joan Greenwood, Terry-Thomas, Kenneth Williams, Roy Kinnear, Penelope Keith, Prunella Scales, Art Garfunkel, Harvey Keitel and Kathy Burke.
In 1982, Dana resumed her recording career with Blue Job (Ace Records), a collection of early 20th century bawdy Blues numbers. She kept one foot in the pop camp with the 1984 album, Solid Romance (Bellaphon), which spawned international hit, ‘Move Your Body Close To Me’, before committing to the blues full-time. She founded and ran the Mustique Blues Festival, for two decades. In 1997, she joined the UK leg of Bob Dylan’s tour as ‘special guest’.
There are now two strands to Dana’s recording career which run in parallel; her singer/songwriter blues albums for Ace Records and (in Europe) Wolf Records, and her albums of bhajans (devotional songs). Dana tours worldwide, including India, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Britain and beyond, frequently performing with the London Blues Band. Her Decca recordings have been anthologised as London Social Degree (RPM, 2019) and her RCA recordings as What Memories We Make (Cherry Red, 2019). Dana’s most recent albums are Under My Bed (Ace, 2019) and Deep Pockets (Ace, 2021).
Not enough for you? Well, Dana was also the British Junior Water Skiing Champion!