On 2 September 2020 Joan Armatrading MBE became the nineteenth Fellow of The Ivors Academy.
An Academy Fellowship, the highest honour that The Ivors Academy bestows, recognises excellence and impact in the art and craft of music creation.
Joan Armatrading’s four decades of superlative music-making has seen her release 21 albums, receive three Grammy nominations and become the first female British artist to debut at number 1 in the Billboard Blues chart.
As you might expect of a singer and songwriter who’s not far off racking up 50 incredible years in the business, Armatrading has covered a lot of ground in a career for which the word ‘trailblazing’ is barely adequate.
But whether your favourite Armatrading places involve visiting the irresistible power pop of 1983’s Drop The Pilot; the smouldering balladry of 1976’s Love And Affection; the raw soul of 2003’s Lovers Speak album; the feisty new wave of 1980’s Me Myself I; the gritty blues of 2007’s Into The Blues; the unapologetic intensity of her latest record, 2018’s Not Too Far Away; or any of the points in between, all the manifestations of Joan Armatrading have one thing in common. Amazing songwriting.
That is why, this year, Armatrading – already the recipient of an Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection Ivor – has been selected to become an Ivors Academy Fellow, the latest honour in a career strewn with the likes of an MBE, a BASCA Gold Badge and the Radio 2 Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement gong.
Her career began in 1972 with debut album Whatever’s For Us and has taken in many a genre and style since, across more than 20 albums and millions of record sales. Throughout it all though, we’ve been blessed with Armatrading’s unique voice and disarming style, in which she articulates complex human emotions with beautiful simplicity.
That skillset has taken her around the world and also into places where few others have been granted access. She was the first ever British female artist to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the blues categories, the first non-jazz artist to play Ronnie Scott’s main room and was handpicked to play her tribute song, The Messenger, to its subject, Nelson Mandela, in 2001.
Somehow, along the way, she has also found time to gain a BA Hons in History, do tireless work for charity and even run marathons.
Today, however, it’s to be hoped she slows down slightly, as we celebrate one of the UK’s most remarkable songwriters, in all her many guises.
words by Mark Sutherland
Congratulating Joan Armatrading on her Academy Fellowship Annie Lennox OBE said: “Joan Armatrading was born to create beautiful music, as she has done so consistently over the decades of her life, as an outstanding singer songwriter, recording artist and performer. With her definitive voice and unique guitar playing style, her songs are masterful classics. She is a legendary British artist who thoroughly deserves to be recognised and honoured with an Ivors Academy Fellowship. I’m thrilled to know that she will soon be part of this incredible association.”
Acclaimed Producer Glyn Johns commented “I can think of no-one who deserves the honour of an Academy Fellowship more than Joan. She is an outstanding songwriter, musician and singer, and as such, has had a huge influence on popular music in the last 40 years. I consider it a privilege to have worked with her. I am sure that there are many singer/songwriters all over the world, who will applaud this award. My heartfelt congratulations Joan.”
Mark Knopfler declared “I’m delighted to be sending you congratulations on the Academy Fellowship Ivor Novello Award this year. Well-played you, and may there be many more. Lots of love – MK”