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Baker's Dozen

Friends Of Mine: Rachel Aggs' Favourite Music
Stephanie Phillips , February 24th, 2021 10:14

Rachel Aggs takes Stephanie Phillips through the albums that made her the musician she is today, from Smokey Robinson to Robyn, Mahotella Queens to Sleater-Kinney. Portrait photo by Stephanie Gibson


Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Ultimate Collection
This compilation was a CD that my parents had and I used to get in trouble a lot because I would steal the CD from their collection. I can see why they were annoyed, but I would take them out of the jewel case, put them into my CD wallet, and then take them to boarding school with me. When I was a kid I just had to have it. It was before the internet, I didn't have any other way of listening to it. Well not before the internet but I didn't have a computer.

My mum is from Detroit so we listened to a lot of Motown in my house when I was growing up. It reminds me being a kid in a really nice way but also the production and playing on these records is just so incredible. Smokey Robinson's voice is so beautiful, I could never ever sing like that. I love the way he communicates emotion. A lot of songs on that record have this strange theme of you know, 'Tears Of A Clown' and 'Tracks Of My Tears', this theme of being a performer, being full of joy on the outside but then having a secret emotional pain bubbling under the surface. That's so powerful, especially for a Black artist to sing about performance and vulnerability in that way.

This record may be one that's difficult to link to the music I actually make, but I always try to make sure that whatever I do has soul, even if it's more confrontational like post punk, which is not thought of as soulful. Also, as a mixed–race person I would look to musicians Smokey. I was inspired by that as an example of Black excellence. It was a source of pride for me and definitely encouraged me to make my own music.