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Baker's Dozen

On Her Radio: Pauline Black's 13 Favourite Albums
The Quietus , November 22nd, 2017 12:17

The Selecter leader and one of 2 Tone's most formidable figures takes Lois Wilson from Jimmy Cliff to Björk in this list of the LPs that shaped her


Billie Holiday - Lady Sings The Blues

I was still at polytechnic when I got this. I was buying my records from Jill Hanson’s in Coventry. You’d go in, tell her what you wanted and she’d look the catalogue numbers up and order them in and you’d come back a week later and the record would be there. I fell in love with Billie Holiday the first time I looked at the sleeve. She had this look in her eyes that was totally the blues and I was entranced. Billie puts you in a place where you see life differently. Back when I bought the album, Billie hadn’t become the tragic figure we know her as today but after Diana Ross played her in Lady Sings The Blues, which fictionalised and glamorised her story but was still very good, her status started to grow and by the late ’80s she had become the trendy go to for everybody.

When the part came up to play her in [Kittitian-British writer Caryl Phillips’] ‘All Or Nothing At All’, I went for it. I felt daunted but I knew it would really stretch me and I wanted that challenge. The auditions took four or five months, they were tough then the day after I got the call to say I had the part, the Tricycle Theatre, where it was going to run, burned down. Then after it was rebuilt, the writer went to court to try to stop the production and a court injunction ruled that no word of the script could be deviated from. On opening night lawyers sat in the audience checking every word. It felt like her life, nothing was ever easy for her and nothing was easy about this.