Born in 1950 on the island of St. Kitts, Joan Armatrading was her country's -- as well as Britain's -- first female to gain international success as a singer/songwriter. Spicing her take on folk with elements of rock, blues, and jazz, she has had a remarkably long, consistent career. Armatrading immigrated to England in 1958 and began writing songs six years later. In 1970, she met lyricist Pam Nestor, and the two began collaborating on material later featured on Armatrading's 1972 debut, Whatever's for Us. The two ended their partnership afterward, and Armatrading resurfaced in 1975 with Back to the Night. Featuring former members of Fairport Convention, 1976's Joan Armatrading catapulted the singer into the U.K. Top 20 and produced her only Top Ten single, "Love and Affection." Armatrading's subsequent albums sold well in the U.K. to her newly established fan base but only respectably in the U.S., where it took her until 1980 to have a real hit (the all-electric Me Myself I). The Key also did quite well, but Armatrading remained largely a cult artist with a devoted following in America, never quite achieving the stardom she had in Britain.
Armatrading has been successful enough to tour and record regularly into the new millennium. She released Lovers Speak on the Denon label in 2003, followed by the concert album Live: All the Way from America a year later on Savoy. Her all-blues project, Into the Blues, arrived on 429 in 2007. The first in a trilogy of genre-specific albums, it debuted at number one on Billboard's Blues Albums chart (a first for a U.K. female artist) and gained a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. A rollicking, electrified album titled This Charming Life served as the rock component of her genre trilogy, arriving early in 2010. It was followed in 2013 by a jazz album, Starlight, a set of all originals which reflected Armatrading's range in songwriting as well as musicianship. ~ Steve Huey