Ace are excited this month to be celebrating Dana Gillespie's fortieth year in the entertainment industry with the release of a stunning new album, STAYING POWER. Dana, who has been a strong presence in the world of music, has shown no sign of resting on her laurels in recent years.
Staying Power displays an empathy with the blues which can be traced back to her first exposure to the art form in the early 1960s: "I discovered the blues when I went to the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962 and also to see the Yardbirds at the Marquee Club. I was in my early teens and hadn't heard anything like it before - blues wasn't easily available in the UK back then". Bessie Smith inspired her especially with her combination of sly, funny and bawdy lyrics. "Blues was my first musical love because it's earthy, spiritual and honest."
Dana's first recordings, featuring Donovan on guitar, were made at the tender age of fifteen for the Pye label. She recalls: "At that stage, I was doing folk because I couldn't afford a band and I hadn't found my musical niche". Dana got to know many of the top bands and people in the music business at an early age. Most shared her love of blues, and played their own version of it. Bob Dylan, an old friend of Dana from the 60s, showed interest in her music in 1997, when he invited her to support him on his UK tour.
Her own musical preferences were tempered by the fact that most of her managers did not really know how to handle her emergent talent. After a swathe of singles on Pye and two LPs for Decca, she moved to RCA and found herself working with David Bowie, who stood in as producer on a number of her recordings. While her career in music was simmering away, she became better known for her appearances in London's West End theatres, in shows such as the first run of Jesus Christ Superstar (playing Mary Magdalene, the original creator of the part), the Who's "Tommy" (playing the Acid Queen) and the rock Othello, "Catch My Soul".
In the 80s, Gillespie maintained a hectic professional schedule, leading a double life, and maybe a triple one at times. She kept at her music, touring through the United States, Europe, and other countries whilst also finding the time to record the single Move Your Body Close To Me, an Indian-influenced song with synthesiser backing which shot to #1 in Europe.
No one could accuse Dana Gillespie of slowing down in the 90s - not with the more than a dozen albums she released that decade. She entered the new millennium having come full force into the blues, her voice reaching that edge, her life experiences varied enough to feel and understand the songs she both sings and writes. Some of the stand-out tunes fans will find on albums from this period are Who's Got the Blues to Blame, Too Blue To Boogie, Come On (If You're Coming) and Guardian Blue Angel.
In recent years her activities include organising The Mustique Blues Festival every year, which she and Basil Charles founded, a charity festival that raises money for the Basil Charles Educational Foundation, now in its eighth year. Dana also presented her own weekly world music radio show, called "Globetrotting" With Gillespie, for eleven years on Blue Danube Radio in Vienna, specialising in African and Indian music with a touch of blues.
In recognition of her talent, Dana was voted Top British Female Blues Vocalist by the British Blues Connection and Blueprint Magazine between 1992 and 1996 and has now been elevated into their Hall Of Fame. Staying Power is set to further secure her position as Europe's leading blues diva - reflecting perfectly where the Queen of the Blues is at today!