Monday, 19 November 2018

Chart-topper to church preacher for singer Liz

SINGER Liz Mitchell is celebrating 45 years in the music industry.

SINGER Liz Mitchell is celebrating 45 years in the music industry.

For 40 of those, with a few breaks in between, she was part of the disco, RnB and reggae vocal group Boney M that was formed by German record producer Frank Farian in 1975.

She would spend the next 10 years with the group, made up of fellow Jamaican-born singer Marcia Barrett, Bobby Farrell, from Aruba, and Maizie Williams, from Montserrat, before their first split.

“In those days it was fewer concerts and more TV and radio appearances but I was travelling the same amount and dealing with people in the same way,” says Liz, 63.

“I think Boney M made me very fortunate in that the music touched so many lives. Now wherever I go people are responding in the same way or even more than they did back when it started.



“It has been growing, which is unusual in showbusiness. Most artists get forgotten but in our case all these kids were looking at me in Romania at a festival this year. About 2,500 young kids were watching the show in quite a clubby atmosphere and I had an amazing moment.

“I was 23 when I started in Boney M and yet all those kids between 18 and 25 in 2015 knew all the songs like it was all those years ago. It was a moment I couldn’t put into this time â?? it was like going back in time. It was great to see the response. These people found the music for themselves.

“For me there was a period when we had the media hype and press, and radio plays. Now it’s great if we get the plays because it brings some more cash.

“With the people who found it for themselves it means there is life to the music itself. Fans tell me they use it to overcome their difficulties.

“Our songs have seen them through death, birth and marriage. Both good and bad times — the songs are a positive thing and that’s wonderful.”

Liz admits that touring did affect the amount of time she and her husband Thomas could spend with their three children — who are all now grown up.

They did receive some rest during 1987 because the group split up, during which time her daughter Adero, now 28, was born. However, the group reunited a year later because the rest of the group “got itchy feet”.

She has two sons. Aaron, 35, a journalist and author, and Twan, 32, a music producer. Adero works as an architect.

All three children grew up in Kidmore End and attended the Oratory Preparatory School and the two boys went on to the senior Oratory School, both of which are in Woodcote.

Liz says there are no clues to her famous career on the walls of the family home.

“Most people’s home you go in and see the gold records everywhere,” she said. “We didn’t do that because I did not want that to be the main focus at home. I didn’t want that at home for the children’s sake. They grew up not knowing the extent of the fame. Sure, they heard it from people but they didn’t understand it.

“On Aaron and Twan’s birthdays they didn’t get it. The DJ came and played Boney M at their party and they were like ‘oh my God, it’s my mum’ but didn’t get it was happening everywhere else. We wanted to normalise their childhood. The music and creative thing ended up being passed down to them all. We didn’t want them to be interested in it.

“The children were becoming teenagers in the Nineties. It was a difficult period because I had been pushed right back into the business and was touring the world and sometimes I would have to be away for three to four weeks which I found pretty devastating. We pushed one to be a doctor and one to be a lawyer and even gave them the briefcases real early,” says Liz.

Her husband added: “But that’s the only thing I personally feel we would have really liked to have changed — travelling all the time while the kids were in school. Even though we didn’t live too far away, there wasn’t enough time in the day to spend with them but now they’re grown up our relationship is different.”

Over the last two-and-a-half years Liz and her son Aaron, who has written 11 books, compiled one on his mother’s life based on long conversations and extensive interviewing. It is titled Boney M: The Story Of My Life during the group, before it and after it.

“Working with family can be challenging and difficult,” Liz says. “Some of it is quite sensitive that I might not necessarily have wanted to discuss with my son. He is a writer so I had to make myself understand, even though he’s my son. He’s asking me a question and I have to handle it as I would handle any question.”

In the early Nineties Liz was drafted in by Simon Cowell to do a remix record of several of Boney M’s hits. She said: “Simon was very nice. He was young at the time. He was working with the label rather than it being his own. He had an ear, even then, for the charts. I remember at the time he had four or five songs in the top 10 that he was behind.

“He may not have been a producer, but he was the talent scout who would say that’s going to be a hit and needs to be pushed. Boney M was one of the groups whose songs he was pushing but it wasn’t a personal relationship we had â?? it was work.”

Even now Liz spends most of her weekends playing celebration gigs and festivals under the title Boney M Featuring Liz Mitchell. But when she is at home she can be found doing occasional services at local churches being ordained reverend.

“The people around the churches are looking for me,” Liz says. “If they don’t see me for three months that’s a long time. I still go to the New Testament Church in Caversham. They see me once a month because I have a thank-you praise and worship that I do. I don’t do it to bring the church members in, I do it because I want to give God thanks. So people come to support.”

She added: “It’s something I enjoy doing and I feel it’s relevant and important. It helps me to remember my spirit and soul and that the light of who I am needs to stay grounded.”

Boney M: The Story of My Life during the group, before it and after it is available to buy for £21.99 from www.squintkoros.com



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