As a multi-million selling recording artist with an equally impressive Olivier Award winning acting career, Barbara Dickson OBE has firmly established herself as one of the most enduring and popular artistes in Britain today.
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, Barbara's love of music was evident from an early age she began studying piano at the age of five and by twelve had also taken up the guitar. She developed an interest in folk music whilst at school which led to floor spots singing at her local folk club. After relocating to Edinburgh, she went on to combine a day job in the Civil Service whilst steadily pursuing her first love, music, in local pubs and clubs. The watershed moment came in 1968 when, after being refused leave from her job for an overseas singing engagement, Barbara resigned, determined to pursue a career for herself in the burgeoning folk scene of the late '60's.
The next few years saw her gradually 'paying her dues' on the Scottish and English folk circuit, steadily building a reputation and working with the likes of Billy Connolly, Gerry Rafferty, Rab Noakes and Archie Fisher. Early folk albums, which she recorded for Trailer and Decca Records, were well received, though breakthrough success remained elusive.
Barbara readily admits that she would have been happy to continue her life as a travelling folk musician, but a meeting with an old friend, musician and playwright Willy Russell, in Liverpool in the early 70s was to change the course of her career completely.
Willy offered Barbara the role of the musician/ singer in his 1974 Beatles' musical 'John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert', staged at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre. She was on stage throughout the entire performance singing the songs of the Beatles at the piano and switching to the guitar, alongside a cast which included Antony Sher, Bernard Hill and Trevor Eve. The show was a huge success and after a sell-out Liverpool season it transferred to London's West End. It was there that renowned impresario Robert Stigwood, the head of RSO Records, signed her to his label.
Her first hit single, 'Answer Me', was released early in 1976 and a guest residency on the BBC's hugely successful 'The Two Ronnies' show later that year brought Barbara into the homes of more than 15 million viewers on Saturday evenings.
'Another Suitcase in Another Hall', her second hit, followed in 1977 when Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber invited Barbara to sing on the original cast recording of their new musical 'Evita'.
A move to CBS, now Sony, record label brought Barbara further hit singles including 'Caravans' and 'January February' and 'The Barbara Dickson Album' in 1980 provided her with her first gold album.
By 1982, regular TV appearances and sold-out tours had cemented her status as one of the UK's most popular female vocalists. Her 'All For a Song' album that year was certified platinum and went on to spend almost a year on the album chart.
A return to the theatre in Willy Russell's new musical 'Blood Brothers' in 1983 was to mark Barbara's debut as a stage actress. As with 'John Paul George Ringo... and Bert' nine years previously, the show transferred from Liverpool to London and in the process earned her the 'Best Actress in a Musical' award from the Society of West End Theatres.
In 1985 Barbara's 'I Know Him So Well,' recorded with Elaine Paige and taken from the musical 'Chess', was released. It reached Number One in the UK and went on to become a Top Ten hit around the world, eventually selling over 900,000 copies. Further hits followed, but in the early 1990's Barbara began to move away from pop and back towards her roots in folk and acoustic music.
Her 1992 collection of Bob Dylan songs, 'Don't Think Twice It's All Right,' was followed by the albums 'Parcel of Rogues' and 'Dark End of the Street', which combined traditional music with tracks by some of Barbara's favourite songwriters, including Randy Newman, Sandy Denny and Jackson Browne.
The 90's also saw Barbara begin to diversify more and more into acting, with major roles on TV including 'Taggart', Kay Mellor's 'Band of Gold' and 'The Missing Postman'. On stage, 'The Seven Ages of Woman' won Barbara the 1997 Liverpool Echo 'Best Actress in Theatre' Award and in 2000 she won her second Olivier award for her role as the infamous 1960's pools winner, Viv Nicholson, in the musical 'Spend Spend Spend'.
In 2004 Barbara released her first studio album for nine years, 'Full Circle', produced and arranged by Troy Donockley. It was widely acclaimed as a long-awaited return to her musical roots, with the Daily Telegraph noting: "it is no exaggeration to describe Barbara as a great singer. She stood out a mile among the Scottish folk singers of her generation, and she has consistently shown her class when performing for a wider public. This is Dickson at her most engaging."
In 2006 Barbara was commissioned by Universal Music to record 'Nothing's Gonna Change My World', an album of the songs of The Beatles.
Having established a successful working partnership with Troy and delighted with the new musical direction that the album 'Full Circle' had provided her, Barbara released the follow-up set, 'Time And Tide,' in 2008. This was accompanied by the release of 'Into The Light', her first live DVD, mixing favourites from the album with many of her best-loved hits.
Barbara was then invited to perform 'The Sky Above the Roof' for 'O Thou Transcendent', award-winning film director Tony Palmer's film about the life of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, described by 'The Observer' as "a mesmerising masterpiece." Tony also invited her to perform 'In the Bleak Midwinter,' the title track of his film about the life and work of Gustav Holst, which was released early in 2011.
In addition to her annual concert tours, recent years have seen Barbara being invited to perform at numerous music and folk festivals around the UK as well as at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen. She is establishing herself as a festival favourite in her duo line-up with Nicholas Holland, where she plays guitar and piano with Nick's keyboards and vocals. Barbara feels this is a different but more intimate version of her touring show and appropriate for the more informal festivals during the summer months. This view is confirmed by their increasing invitations to appear at festivals together.
Her autobiography, 'A Shirt Box Full of Songs,' was published by Hachette Scotland in 2009. More recently she has presented two series of 'Scotland on Song with Barbara Dickson' for BBC Radio Scotland, exploring folk and roots music. Following on from the show's success, she, in 2011 presented a new show, 'Scotland in Tune with Barbara Dickson', combining a weekly mix of live guests with the best in Celtic music and a New Year edition of the show's best music and interviews was broadcast on Hogmanay 2011.
Barbara's latest album, 'Words Unspoken,' was released to coincide with her 2011 concert tour in February/March. Following on from her recent musical collaborations with Troy Donockley, the album further explores the music of the British Isles and includes more favourites from her 'shirt box' that she has always wanted to record plus a brand new original song 'The Magical West'. She also played with Troy a lovely acoustic version of Paul Simon's 'Bridge over Troubled Water'. Just as the CD was released, Barbara was invited to co-present the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in London with Mike Harding, where she showcased a track 'My Donald' from 'Words Unspoken'.
In June 2011, Barbara contributed to a TV documentary, 'Right Down the Line' which paid tribute to her late friend and colleague Gerry Rafferty. The programme was produced by Rab Noakes, another old friend and mutual lifelong admirer of Gerry. The result was a very moving reflection on the life of one of the UK's most talented and enduring artistes.
Last year Barbara also appeared at more festivals, including Beverley, Broadstairs, St Ives and Innerleithen with her duo line-up as well as full band. She also made an appearance singing and talking about her autobiography at the Borders Book Festival.
Late in 2011 saw the 50th Anniversary of The Howff in Dunfermline, where Barbara first sang in the 1960s, a night where she sang and played entirely on her own plus the prestigious Scots Trad. Awards in December where she appeared with Troy Donockley and Andy Dinan, the great Irish Champion fiddle player. These were supplemented by diverse appearances at Durham Cathedral and reading of a poem by the Archbishop of Canterbury just prior to Christmas and the Lennoxlove Book Festival. In addition she also played at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Greentrax Records by Ian Green, which was celebrated by many artistes in Edinburgh.
Since the New Year, Barbara has played at Celtic Connections in Glasgow at two different events, one a poignant concert of songs from the 1914-18 war, called 'Far, Far From Ypres' mainly showcasing Scottish songs from the period and then two nights of 'Bring it all Home. Gerry Rafferty Remembered'. Barbara sang 'Wise as a Serpent' and 'Steamboat Row', the latter with Martha, Gerry's daughter. This show was filmed for transmission on BBC4
Her plans for 2012 are as follows. She has been booked to appear at various festivals during the summer months. The BBC in Scotland is making a documentary about her life and work with live music and guests and she's also working on another book project involving Scottish music.
Barbara currently lives in Lincolnshire with her husband Oliver and three sons, Colm, Gabriel and Archie. In 2001 she became an O.B.E. for her services to music and drama and was conferred with the honour by H.M. The Queen.
Now in her 44nd year in music, Barbara is still doing what she loves best creating music and performing live.
Yet never one to look back, and despite the great successes of her career, ask her if she still has any ambitions left and she laughs: "Oh, loads I'd like to sing a duet with James Taylor. I'd like to appear on 'Transatlantic Sessions' on TV. I'd like to play again in Australia. I'd like to appear in the US and Canada. I could go on and on Who knows if any of them will happen? However musically I am happier than I have ever been, as I control my musical direction. So many wonderful opportunities have come my way throughout my career, many totally unexpected and they still happen I always look to the future and it's why I always roll my eyes when interviewers ask me about the highlight of my career, as if the best is behind me. It's certainly not I truly believe the best is yet to come"
"Barbara Dickson is a very special talent" (Sir George Martin)
"You want to bottle her voice - it's perfect." (Melvyn Bragg The South Bank Show)
"It is no exaggeration to describe Dickson as a great singer. She stood out a mile among the Scottish folks singers of her generation, and she has consistently shown her class when performing for a wider public." (The Daily Telegraph)
"I love Barbara Dickson. From the very first time I heard her, her voice just nailed me to the wall Her voice has that kind of smoothness... she's just a one-off." (Billy Connolly)
"Barbara Dickson has one of those voices boy can this lady sing She can glide with glacial beauty, bright and pure, through the high notes. She can slip down to husky warmth, and she can burn with straightahead soul power. When she sang the folk clubs, she could transfix with feeling and intensity. Now she's moving on again, but that voice is still there."
(New Musical Express)
"[Barbara's] voice, as true as ever, has a thrilling quality in the upper register... The chance to hear her sing a personal choice of favourite good songs should not be missed." (The Times)
"Preconceptions are made to be shattered. Whether you know her as the star of a song and dance spectacular, or remember her from the Fife folk scene in the 1970s, Barbara Dickson is just the kind of person you might expect to stick up for the good old songs. But the singer is plainly as hip as she is eloquent. What she treasures are great lyrics and she admits to a liking for Randy Newman, James Taylor and Elvis Costello... Dickson is not to be underestimated". (The Sunday Times)
"Barbara Dickson shows what true class is all about" (The Stage)
"The voice of Barbara Dickson soars gloriously to the rafters" (The Daily Telegraph)
Scotland's Best Selling Female Album Artist of All Time