Surely it cannot be 50 years since Barbara Dickson went into the studio to record her first album! Oh yes, it is and here we are in 2020 with her 25th solo album – Time Is Going Faster. And there’s more as Barbara’s eagerly-awaited new autobiography A Shirt Box Full Of Songs is also now on sale.
“This is a very special album for me,” she said. “It is my 25th studio album and I wanted it to have a good selection of tracks. Three are my own compositions but there are some new versions of some old favourites too so I hope we have found the right blend. We decided to release it now rather than wait for the tour because you never know when you will be touring again.
“We were going to tour this year but with the Covid-19 situation we have postponed until Spring 2021 but even then nobody can be sure of whether or not we will be over this situation.
“As for the book – A Shirt Box Full of Songs – I originally wrote an autobiography which came out in 2009 but so much has happened since then that it was suggested that it needed an update so it is not just a re-release. It has given me the chance to add more chapters, share more things and express more things. I hope people like it because it is so much a part of me.
“When I was growing up in Dunfermline there was always music and laughter in the house,” said Barbara. “My Dad was a cook who worked on tugs in Rosyth Dockyard so he was pretty good in the kitchen and had a great sense of fun. My Mum was a real Liverpudlian so growing up with them was never dull.
“I loved singing when I was very young and I don’t think that has ever changed. When I look back I don’t really know why I didn’t go to drama school or something from an early. There wasn’t a local theatre so I never saw shows exactly and we were not in the sort of area or time when kids went to drama school. I sang though and when I left school I got a ‘proper job’ working in a Registrar’s office in Edinburgh. I was only 16 but in the evenings I went to folk clubs and sang. That’s how it all began but I had no idea or strong ambition that drove me towards the career that I have had.”
That career has taken Barbara around the world filling major concert halls and starring in musicals like Blood Brothers as well as recording many best-selling albums.
“I realised when I was singing in the clubs that I was at my happiest doing that and eventually I decided to go full-time and see if I could make it work. I had a big break when I met and became friends with Willy Russell. He gave me lots of advice and gave me a break in his new musical, ‘John. Paul, George, Ringo….and Bert’. It was brilliant and added a whole new world of musicals to my career.
“It also helped when I became resident with The Two Ronnies TV show for some time. Millions watched them and that was another great boost for my career. I have always worked hard but I cannot deny that I have had many great breaks as well.”
There is no doubt that Barbara is an international star but she takes some convincing.
“It is flattering when someone recognises you in the street and asks for an autograph or when you arrive to do a concert and the sign outside the venue says that all the tickets are sold,” she said. “It gives you a really nice, warm feeling but I am very aware that it is the music that is the star.”
Other people make have a different view and those are the people who have followed her throughout her career and there is good news for them and indeed for all of us.
“There is more to come, I haven’t finished yet,” said Barbara. “We will tour again and there will be more albums as long as people want to come and see us or want to hear us. Besides, while there is always penty to do in Edinburgh where we live, I don’t ever see a time when I will stop singing. That has never changed since I sang for the very first time in a folk club all those years ago. “
A few years ago Barbara was awarded the OBE which she actually found a little embarrassing.
“It is a great honour, of course and I appreciated it very much – I still do,” she said. “I have never really come to terms with celebrity and still find it a bit embarrassing. All I am is an entertainer. I can understand why people who have served their communities get honours, they really deserve them but I just do what I have enjoyed doing since I was a little girl – I sing.
“A number of people have said that my songs and performances have brough a lot of pleasure over the years and I suppose that means that I have served in some way or another but while being honoured was such a surprise and a very great honour, I can’t quite get used to the fact that I was given a very special award for just being me.”
There is something of which Barbara is quite delighted though.
“Here we are in 2021 and another recording and that is a real milestone because it was back in 1970 that I did my first solo album,” said Barbara. “So, this is my 50th anniversary of recording and I am very proud of that. It would not have happened without people supporting me though and that includes those lovely people who have come to my concerts and the shows in which I have appeared. They have been there for me all the way through. That is very humbling and I know I am a very lucky girl from Dunfermline.”