Musician Joan Armatrading honoured with lifetime achievement award

Video report by ITV News presenter Julie Etchingham. Watch the full interview with Joan Armatrading at the end of this article

The word legend is overused, and you don’t often get to sit down with a real one.

But to listen to Joan Armatrading talk about her life and work, is to realise you are in the presence of a master craftswoman; a pioneering artist who has carved a unique and groundbreaking path through the British music industry.

On Tuesday, she was given a Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

Whichever of the last five decades you grew up in - Joan’s music has been part of the soundtrack.

Joan Armatrading: I never thought past being a songwriter

She has constantly reinvented her musical style - charting folk, pop, soul, the blues - the lot.

The first black female songwriter to come to prominence in the British music industry, she has sold 10 million records, been nominated for a Grammy three time and honoured with a CBE this year - to name but a few accolades.

Tonight for News at Ten, she describes how her mum pawned two old prams to buy her her first guitar; how she was snapped up by a record label who didn’t try to repackage her but simply allowed her to make music.

Joan Armatrading wrote and performed a song with Nelson Mandela.

She talks to me about recording a special track for Nelson Mandela and performing it alongside him on stage. And, perhaps surprisingly - how for her, growing up in Birmingham and navigating her way through the music industry - racism was not an intrusion she felt.

And in a year when awards have been showered on her - what would the little girl who moved to Britain from St Kitts in the 1950s have made of it?

I keep thinking about Joan’s reply.

“That little girl in Birmingham really didn’t think past being a songwriter,” she said.

“I was born to do what I’m doing - this is why I’m here. It’s actually a great feeling - and quite comforting to know.”

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“A lot of people are questioning why they’re here and wonder what the whole purpose is.

“My purpose is to write songs.”

She is still writing them. They are beautiful and they are soulful - they lift us up, shake us up, help us express our own feelings and bring us joy.

What a gift. What a woman.

Watch Julie's full interview with Joan Armatrading