Barbara Dickson was born in Dunfermline, Fife in 1947. She learned to play the piano aged five and took up the guitar when she was twelve. Barbara wanted to become a professional musician and started singing in local folk clubs in 1964. She moved to Edinburgh working as a clerk by day and playing the folk clubs by night. Barbara made her first commercial recording in 1967 then two years later Scottish folk singer, Archie Fisher invited her to sing with him on the album of Jacobite songs, called The Fate O' Charlie.
Popular on the UK folk circuit she toured and when appearing at a Liverpool folk club she met student teacher, Willy Russell. He showed her the first draft of a musical play called ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo….and Bert’ and asked Barbara to perform the music. Although she had established herself as an acknowledged and gifted folk singer she wanted more and moved to London for work as a professional singer. In 1974, Barbara joined Willy Russell’s stage musical, John, Paul, George, Ringo....and Bert. The combination of fine writing, a superb cast of young unknowns, (including Antony Sher, Bernard Hill and Trevor Eve), and Barbara’s idiosyncratic interpretation of Beatles songs made the show hugely successful.
Robert Stigwood signed Barbara to his record label RSO Records and she made the album, ‘Answer me’ in 1976 which was produced by Junior Campbell (ex Marmalade).
The single became a top ten hit and Barbara was invited to appear as a regular guest on BBC’s prime comedy show, The Two Ronnies. Now her distinctive voice was heard by 10 million viewers every week.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice asked Barbara to record ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ from the new musical ‘Evita,’ and the single became her second hit (1977).
Barbara sang backing vocals for her friend and fellow ‘folky,’ Gerry Rafferty (Humblebums), on his successful City to City (1978) and Night Owl (1979), albums.
Willy Russell wanted Barbara to play the mother (Mrs Johnstone), in his new musical Blood Brothers in 1982. Barbara was reluctant at first, never having acted before, but took on the challenge and excelled. She won the Actress of the Year in a Musical from the Society of West End Theatre in 1984.
Later the same year Barbara agreed to take part in the cast album recording of the musical ‘Chess’, which included the song ‘I Know Him So Well’, a duet sung with Elaine Paige. The song was a worldwide hit and remained at number one in the UK charts for many weeks.
By the nineties Barbara Dickson was keen to develop her acting skills and appeared in various TV dramas including ‘Taggart’, ‘Band of Gold’ and ‘The Missing Postman’.
In 1996 Chris Bond created a show for Barbara called ‘The Seven Ages of Woman’ which toured extensively in 1997 and 1998. The following year she starred in ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’, a musical by Steve Brown and Justin Greene.
Shortly after the sad death of Gerry Rafferty in 2011 Barbara recorded an album of Gerry Rafferty songs.
Barbara continues to tour, playing to sell-out audiences throughout the UK. She has not completely turned her back on folk singing, and continues to record the occasional albums of traditional songs.
Worth a listen:
Hear comes the sun (1974)
Answer Me (1976)
People get ready (1976)
Lean on me (1976)
Another suitcase another hall (1976)
Caravan Song (1979)
January, February (1980)
I Know Him So Well (with Elaine Paige) (1984)