James William "Jimmy" Somerville (born 22 June 1961) is a Scottish pop singer and songwriter. He sang in the 1980s with the pop groups Bronski Beat and The Communards, and has also had a solo career. He is known in particular for his falsetto singing voice and for having been openly gay during a period of increasing socio-political debate and conflict in the UK regarding lesbian and gay rights.
In 1983, Somerville co-founded the synthpop group Bronski Beat, which proceeded to have several hits in the British charts. Their biggest hit was "Smalltown Boy" which reached No. 3 in the UK charts. Somerville played the song's titular character in the music video who leaves his hostile hometown for the friendlier city. This was a reflection of Somerville's own experience when he came to London in about 1980, and was able to enjoy the gay scene and also attend the London Gay Teenage Group.
Somerville left Bronski Beat in 1985 and formed The Communards with classically trained pianist Richard Coles (now a Church of England priest and broadcaster). They had several hits, including a cover version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way," which spent four weeks at No. 1 in the UK charts and became the biggest-selling single of 1986 in the UK. He also sang backing vocals on the Fine Young Cannibals' version of "Suspicious Minds", which was a UK Top 10 hit.
The Communards split in 1988 and Somerville began a solo career the following year. He released his debut solo album Read My Lips in November 1989, which contained three UK Top 30 hits, including a hit cover of Sylvester's hi-NRG classic "You Make Me Feel". He also sang on the second Band Aid project at the end of 1989. In November 1990, Somerville's "greatest hits" album The Singles Collection 1984-1990 (which featured his hits with Bronski Beat and The Communards in addition to his own material) was released and reached number 4 on the UK Album Chart. It included a cover of the Bee Gees' hit song "To Love Somebody", which also reached the UK Top 10. Also in 1990, Somerville contributed the song "From This Moment On" to the Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization, the proceeds from which benefited AIDS research.
In 1991 Somerville provided backing vocals to a track called "Why Aren't You In Love With Me?" from the album "Ripe" by Communards offshoot band Banderas. The Banderas duo, Caroline Buckley and Sally Herbert, had previously been part of Somerville's backing band. After this, he disappeared from the limelight for several years. He returned in 1995 with the album Dare to Love, which included "Heartbeat" (a UK Top 30 hit and a No. 1 hit on the US dance chart), "Hurts So Good" and "By Your Side", though commercial success was now beginning to elude him and his contract with London Records to which he had been signed for over a decade came to an end.
A new single, "Dark Sky", was released in 1997 and peaked at #66 in the UK. His third album, entitled Manage The Damage, was released in 1999 via Gut Records, though failed to chart. A companion remix album, Root Beer, came out in 2000. His dance-oriented fourth solo album, Home Again, was released in 2004, though again failed to chart.
May 2009 saw the release of Somerville's Suddenly Last Summer album, which contained acoustic interpretations of other people's songs. The album was initially only available as a digital download but in May 2010 was made available in a limited edition (3,000 copies) CD/DVD in the UK. In late 2010, Somerville released a dance EP called Bright Thing. He has also had an acting career, appearing in Sally Potter's 1992 film of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, in Isaac Julien's 1989 Looking for Langston, and in an episode of the cult science fiction television series Lexx ("Girltown").
2010's EP Bright Thing was the first of a series of three, with Somerville releasing Momentum in 2011 and Solent in 2012, with long term collaborator John Winfield.
September 2014 saw the release of new single "Back to Me" followed by "Travesty", both from Somerville's new disco-inspired album Homage. The emphasis on the recording of the new album has been on achieving the musical authenticity of original disco which Somerville grew up listening to. He stated 'I've finally made the disco album I always wanted to and never thought I could'.
1984: The Age of Consent with Bronski Beat
1986: Communards with The Communards
1987: Red with The Communards
1989: Read My Lips
1995: Dare to Love
1999: Manage the Damage
2004: Home Again
2009: Suddenly Last Summer
2010: Bright Thing
2014: Smalltown Boy (Reprise 2014)
2014: Back To Me (Single)
2014: Travesty (Single)
Sources: Last.fm, Wikipedia
Jimmy Somerville in the news
|Songs by Jimmy Somerville|