Knight was born to Jamaican parents, and she grew up in a strict Pentecostal household where church attendance was commonplace. It is here where she began her singing career: My mum was often called upon: Lead us in song! I thought, doesn't everybody's mum lead the congregation at church in song? Due to her parents' religious beliefs, secular music was largely frowned upon, but artists such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin played a big part in her childhood.
It was not until she turned 17, however, that she began to take her craft seriously. She began performing the songs she had written on stage in local clubs in her hometown. At the age of 19 she performed on the demo songs of Wolverhampton songwriter Westley Jones, who was signed to Dome publishing in London. Peter Robinson the MD of the company, impressed with her vocals, got Westley Jones to introduce her and showcase her talents. Peter Robinson and Jones — who had discovered Beverley through demo recordings — also came up with the stage name of Beverley Knight from Smith as Peter had also signed another demo vocalist of Westley's from Birmingham calling her Fiona Day.
She was adamant that her education should come first and that she should have something to fall back on, and so went to Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education to study Religious Theology and Philosophy. Early success[ edit ] In late , Knight signed a record deal with Dome Records, a small, independent label.
Shortly after, she went in studio to write and record her debut album. The backbone of the project was produced by London production trio 2B3, with additional beats provided by Don E Knight's cousin , Ethnic Boyz and hip-hop act Blak Twang. The result was the album The B-Funk — hailed as "the best British soul album ever"  by critics when it was released in November However, the commercial success of the album failed to match its critical success and the album peaked on the UK album chart at number Several singles were released from the project, the biggest being " Flavour of the Old School ", which peaked at number 33 in March when it was re-released.
Peaking at number 42 in Britain, the commercial success of the album proved to be much greater than her debut. The album went on to sell , copies in Britain  and be certified Gold in The commercial success of Prodigal Sista marked a big step forward in Knight's career and was reflected in the widespread critical acclaim of the project. Q magazine called the album "a triumph not only of Knight's musical vision but also of the strength in her character", while The Times remarked "Prodigal Sista is a joy to hear — her vocal and intricate self-devised and performed harmonies can make you catch your breath in wonderment".
Mainstream breakthrough[ edit ] Throughout Knight returned to the recording studio to write and record her third studio album. The result was Who I Am , released in March It was preceded by two singles, " Get Up! This partnership became Knight's most successful single up to that point, peaking at number 10 on the UK singles chart. The success of the singles, together with wide critical praise, propelled the album to number seven on the album chart, making Who I Am her most commercially successful album to date.
It was re-released with new versions of the singles " Gold " and " Shape of You Reshaped " and has sold , copies in Britain,  earning a Gold sales certificate.
The result was Affirmation , which was released on Parlophone in June The song marked a more mainstream pop sound that alienated Knight's largely urban fan base and the song was not well received by urban radio stations.
Nevertheless, it became her biggest hit to date, peaking at number nine on the singles chart. The song was followed by two more singles, " Not Too Late for Love " and " Keep This Fire Burning ", which helped boost album sales and resulted in the album being awarded a Gold sales certificate in December The main essence of the project was centred on Knight's relationship with Tyrone Jamison — a gay man whom she described as her "soul mate" and who died of an AIDS-related disease in Throughout the album, lyrics on tracks such as "Remember Me" "One day we will be reunited, least I hope that is our destiny, so while you chill in the arms of angels, remember me, remember me" and "No One Ever Loves in Vain" clearly point to her close relationship with Tyrone and rank as her most personal work to date.
Compared to the praise of her previous albums, the critical response to Affirmation was mixed. The mainstream press such as The Guardian praised her for branching out, while the black music press such as The Voice and Blues and Soul accused Knight of selling out and being manipulated away from urban music by her record label, a claim she flatly denies: I write my own songs so I'm not just a vocalist who can easily be dictated to.
The show, featuring celebrities who duet with established singers, ran for two weeks and proved to be a relative disappointment in terms of audience figures — averaging between 15 and 25 percent audience shares. Reaching out to new audiences was also a driving force behind Knight's decision to join Take That on their reunion arena tour. The album, which was certified Gold less than a month after its release,  became her second highest charting of her career when it entered the UK albums chart at number ten and rose to number nine a month later.
It was preceded by the single " Piece of My Heart " — a cover of the Erma Franklin classic made famous by Janis Joplin and entered the singles chart at number 16, spending 11 weeks inside the UK top 75 singles chart and becoming her longest-running chart single to date. Completed in less than five days, the album was released on 7 May and features collaborations with musicians such as Ronnie Wood and Scotty Moore. This turned out to be her final album for Parlophone.
Knight also announced that her sixth studio album would be released in summer , having a more contemporary feel in comparison to previous retro soul album Music City Soul. In a video blog on her website she said that "for the past year, I've been writing for the record.
I've been working with some new names and some old names for the album. The album was released the same week on 7 September and entered the UK Albums Chart at number The radio remix features UK rapper Chipmunk. Soul UK[ edit ] In March , Knight announced in that she would be releasing her seventh studio album later that year and that it would be a collection of British soul covers.
She also announced a one-off gig to be held at Porchester Hall , London, which would be filmed for her first live DVD, to be included with the album release. The first single to be released from the album was " Mama Used to Say ", a hit single originally recorded by Junior Giscombe. The single was released on 27 June , with the album following on 4 July. The album was the highest new entry on the UK albums chart in its week of release, peaking at Other artists whose songs were covered on Soul UK include: Knight featured on the song " Hit the Road, Jack ".
Theatre[ edit ] On 9 September ,  Knight took over the role of Rachel Marron played by Whitney Houston in the original film from performer Heather Headley in the musical adaptation of The Bodyguard. Knight returned to the West End in The Bodyguard musical on 15 July for a limited six-month run. Eastwest Records and Soulsville[ edit ] On 27 October , it was announced that East West Records had signed Knight to release her eighth studio album, Soulsville , which was released on 10 June King , as well as some original tracks co-written by Knight.
Knight performed five times during the concert: Leading Ladies[ edit ] Main article: Their debut album, Songs from the Stage , was released on November 17, and features covers songs from Cats , Beautiful and Rent among others. She entered the gospel choir of her local church at just four years of age and eventually became the musical director before she left in her late teens.
Her musical education continued at home, where her family would often sing together around the piano and listen to music from their favourite gospel and soul artists such as Sam Cooke. Featuring interviews with artists such as Shirley Caesar , Percy Sledge and Destiny's Child stars Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams , the six-part series explored the roots of gospel music and the impact it had upon the black community.
Such was the success of the show that a second six-part series was commissioned and began in March and featured new interviews with artists such as Candi Staton , David McAlmont and Marvin Winans.
Knight's interview technique and her ability to get her guests to open up and discuss issues in their personal lives such as domestic violence and depression received favourable reviews and led the Radio Times to comment "Knight's passion for the music is obvious — but so is her warmth, which makes her a rarity among interviewers. Despite his untimely death in , his music endured and became a staple part of Knight's childhood: My mother played Sam Cooke and he was the first voice I ever heard on record.
His was the first voice that directly had a big impact on me, vocally. He still makes me cry. He'd take the very simple Bible stories that I grew up with and just make them into a two-and-a-half-minute song and yet with an intensity and a passion that the world had never heard before.
He really was a major influence on my life. The track, which came to exemplify the civil rights movement in the s, has featured in many of Knight's live performances usually with the aid of the London Community Gospel Choir and she even recorded a studio version with musician Jools Holland , which featured on his Small World, Big Band Volume 2 album. Another major influence in Knight's childhood was Aretha Franklin. It was Franklin's vocal delivery that has most had an impact upon Knight: Aretha taught me my phrasing and the way I carry emotion.
She makes me cry and then she brings me into the throes of musical ecstasy — with the same voice! I Never Loved A Man hurts, and the Amazing Grace album, which is the epitome of my childhood, will stay with me for ever. In addition to the pioneering soul and gospel artists of the midth century, modern artists such as Mary J. Blige and D'Angelo have also played a role in shaping Knight's musical outlook.
The most significant of her contemporary peers comes in the form of Prince , a man she describes as one of her heroes: Of course, I didn't have a clue about what he was singing about; the sexuality is implicit and I love that. Throughout her childhood, Knight's musical exposure developed as she got older. I find that London is a bit more segregated. In Wolverhampton, black people weren't so segregated and I think that had a massive impact on my musical influences.
After working with Guy Chambers , the album had a more mainstream flavour compared to her previous albums and was led by the rock guitar driven single " Come as You Are ". Although the song became her highest charting single to date, Knight was largely criticised by urban radio and media for moving too far away from her urban sound. Nevertheless, the song illustrated Knight's determined effort not to become boxed in and "ghettoised".
After the ceremony Knight remarked that the recognition "reflects not only on my whole career but the work I do for charities, which is immensely important to me. I do not do that to be awarded for it, I just do it because it's in my heart, but to be recognised for it, hopefully will put the magnifying glass on to them as well". Knight's chosen charity for the show was the Terrence Higgins Trust. I was born and raised in Wolverhampton and to have such an accolade given to me is seismic".
My eye [ sic ] are red from tears of joy". Beverley Knight has achieved outstanding international success as a recording artist, performer, West End star and charity ambassador. She deserves this honour not only for her achievements, but also for the positive and exemplary manner in which she conducts herself, she has never forgotten her roots and is passionate about Wolverhampton and its people.