Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

‘How did 30 years come around so quickly?’: Soul star Beverley Knight looks back on a stellar career

© SuppliedBeverly Knight.
Beverly Knight.

Last year, Beverley Knight jumped on a plane and flew to Alicante, just to see Tom Jones perform. This summer, she will share a stage with the legend in the shadow of Stirling Castle.

“I said, ‘I need to see Tom Jones’,” recalled Beverley, one of the UK’s great soul and R&B singers. “I think he’s magnificent. That voice, at 83, has not diminished.

“That is an inspiration to me. To still have that vocal firepower at that age is a blessing, because for many people the vocals diminish somewhat, and they must change the key they sing in and make things sound different because the vocals aren’t quite there.

“With Tom, it’s all there. It’s remarkable. I look at him and say, ‘That’s gonna be me’. I’m determined that’s going to be me.”

Beverley and Sir Tom have performed together before, at the Proms in 2017, and they have also co-presented a TV show. She hopes they have a chance to sing a duet again at the Summer Sessions in Stirling next month.

“I’d have to talk to him and the team to see if we can make it happen, but I would love that. What a blessing that would be. I’ve never been to Stirling before, so I’m excited to get up there. And that castle – I mean, my God, it’s going to be fantastic.”

Beverley’s 30 years in music

Thirty years have passed since 51-year-old Beverley signed her first record deal. In the years since, she has enjoyed a string of top 10 albums and has branched out into a successful West End musical theatre career, winning an Olivier last year for her performance as Emmeline Pankhurst in Sylvia.

Has the 30-year anniversary given her a chance to reflect on what she has achieved so far?

“I think to myself, how did 30 years come around so quickly? I always knew I would make music and I always knew – whether I scaled the heights or not – that I would perform,” she said.

“But 30 years on, to have what I have in this moment – this duality of performing on stage as me and performing on the theatre stage as any number of different characters – is just mad.

“I feel as though it hasn’t been that long, but then I look at what has come and gone since: Britpop, the Spice Girls, Y2K, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, The X Factor, right up to the modern day with Ariana Grande, Raye and Adele. I pre-date all of that and I’m still here. That’s when I realise a long, long time has passed.”

Tom Jones and Beverley Knight on stage. © Supplied by BBC
Tom Jones and Beverley Knight on stage.

As the musical trends and genres have come and gone, the Shoulda Woulda Coulda and Come As You Are singer stuck to what she believed in. “I always maintained the same position, that the world will spin round to where you are in the end. Even if they don’t get what you’re doing, they will come round to where you are musically.

“When I started I think it’s safe to say that in Britain, largely speaking, people didn’t get what I was doing because the prevailing sound at the time was Britpop. Nobody was really interested in what I was doing when everyone else was doing guitar music and that whole movement. But bit by bit, people began to come on board, and I felt I just needed to keep doing what I was doing with love and integrity.”

The daughter of Jamaican parents, Beverley grew up in Wolverhampton and would sing in church.

“My mum tells people I was singing before I was forming words! It’s in my blood and it was obvious I was going to sing, and for as long as I have breath in me, that’s what I want to do. I’ll sing until the lights go out.”

‘Little Aretha’

Dubbed Little Aretha by David Bowie, a young Beverley was influenced by Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Prince. Years later, when the Purple Rain singer hand-picked her to be his support act at his London O2 residency, it began one of the most memorable periods of her career.

Beverley Knight. © David Fisher/Shutterstock
Beverley Knight.

“I thought my life was made when he asked me,” she smiled. “One of the greatest things that has ever happened to me was performing with Prince.

“Then for him to ask me to join him on stage at his after-shows and then fly me to LA – oh my God, I don’t think there are words to describe that feeling of complete and utter joy I felt when standing on stage with the one man who has influenced me musically more than anybody else.

“When he told me he wanted me to get on a plane to LA and sent me the ticket, I didn’t know why I was going. The penny dropped when I got there.

“I was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel and there were all these huge A-list Hollywood people. He was throwing his Oscars party and he wanted me to sing.

“There I was, this kid from Wolverhampton, standing on a makeshift stage in his house, with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, the Coen brothers, Wesley Snipes, Kate Beckinsale and Ozwald Boateng in front of me. All these incredible people, and I’m singing with Prince next to me. Then, the crowd parted, and Stevie Wonder was led to the stage. What a dream.”

The musical theatre stage

Another dream come true has been Beverley’s musical theatre career. It’s been just over a decade since she took on the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard and the West End roles haven’t stopped since. She’s currently in Sister Act and has also been in Cats, Sweet Charity, Memphis, The Drifters Girl and Sylvia.

“I’d done theatre as a child and acting was my minor subject at university,” explained Beverley, who has been married to mental health activist James O’Keefe since 2012.

“I’d always had a hand in the practice of acting, but I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now.

“When The Bodyguard opportunity came up, I knew I could sing the songs because I’d been doing so since Whitney came along when I was a teenager. I believed I could act them as well, so I threw my hat in the ring, got the part, and the explosion of offers for everything came within weeks.

“Winning the Olivier was monumental. There are very few musicians turned actors who have Oliviers sitting in their cabinets. I’m one of a tiny group and that’s big for me. I didn’t go to Rada or Lamda or Bird or The Brit School; I went to a regular comprehensive, which I thank God every day for because the drama department really encouraged us.”

Beverley Knight and husband James O’Keefe. © Shutterstock / Featureflash Phot
Beverley Knight and husband James O’Keefe.

With a new studio album released last year to mark her 50th birthday, a run of summer shows after her run in Sister Act ends, and a number of new offers on the table, including straight acting, it’s clear that Beverley is happiest when she is busy.

“I don’t like to let the grass grow under my feet,” she smiled. “I always have that need to keep moving and to keep pushing forward, to keep challenging myself and to keep doing new things.

“One of my favourite lines from a song is the last line from Can’t Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which says, ‘This life is more than just a read-through’.

“This isn’t a rehearsal; we’ve got one shot at it and I’m taking every shot that comes.”

‘Getting to 50 is a blessing’

Beverley Knight’s ninth studio album, The Fifth Chapter, was released last September to strong reviews. She says there were several reasons why she wanted to record new music to mark her 50th birthday.

“Firstly, the blessing of getting to 50. So many people – so many musicians – don’t make it. Whitney didn’t make it. Michael made it and promptly died. We know about Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and the 27 Club,” she explained.

“It’s a blessing to reach this age and celebrate it as a milestone of life. Leading on from that, I wanted to celebrate being a woman in the music industry at this age, when traditionally women are expected to not be quite so visual. To not be sexy or to do anything seen as trying to be youthful. I wanted to show myself at this stage of my life. I’m proud of it.

“I also wanted to show we’re still creating and we’re relevant at this age and doing things that can speak to all ages and not just our Generation X demographic. What I’m saying and what I’m doing are of relevance to anyone who listens.

“That was the message for me, and that’s why I marked the fifth chapter… and I like a good party!”

Beverley Knight joins Tom Jones at Stirling Summer Sessions on June 30. Other acts playing between June 28 and July 2 are Shania Twain, James Arthur, The Darkness, Busted and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.