Neneh Mariann Karlsson (born 10 March 1964), better known as Neneh Cherry, is a Swedish singer-songwriter, rapper, occasional DJ and broadcaster.
To date, Cherry has released five studio albums. Her first, Raw Like Sushi, was released 1989 and peaked at number three on the UK Album Chart, thanks in large part to the worldwide hit single "Buffalo Stance". Her second studio album was 1992's Homebrew. Four years later she released Man, with her next studio album, Blank Project, coming in 2014. Her most recent album, Broken Politics, was released in 2018.
In addition to releasing these studio albums, she formed the band cirKus in 2006 and has collaborated with The Thing, releasing an album entitled The Cherry Thing in 2012. She also performed in a number of punk and post-punk bands in her youth, including The Slits and Rip Rig + Panic.
Early life and family
Cherry was born as Neneh Mariann Karlsson in Stockholm, the daughter of Monica "Moki" Karlsson, a Swedish painter and textile artist, and the musician Ahmadu Jah. Jah was born in Sierra Leone, the son of a chief, and went to Stockholm to study engineering at university.
Cherry's mother married the influential American jazz musician Don Cherry, who helped raise Cherry since birth. Cherry took her stepfather's surname.
Cherry has a half-sister, singer Titiyo, and half-brother, record producer Cherno Jah, from her father Ahmadu Jah's marriage to Maylen Jah (née Bergström). Cherry also has a half-brother, musician Eagle-Eye Cherry, a stepsister, violinist Jan Cherry, and a stepbrother, jazz musician David Ornette Cherry from stepfather Don Cherry's side.
Cherry's parents, Moki and Don Cherry, bought and converted an old schoolhouse in the countryside outside the small town of Hässleholm in Sweden in 1970. In the early 1970s, the family moved to the United States, when Don Cherry taught at Dartmouth College. Cherry dropped out of school at 14 and moved to London.
Cherry has stated that she found her voice singing along with Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex. She grew up in a musical family; she remembers singing with her father at the piano.
Cherry moved to the United Kingdom when she was 14, in the midst of the punk era, and she remembers finding "her people" there. Cherry had met Tessa Pollitt, Viv Albertine and Ari Up from The Slits earlier as her stepfather, Don Cherry, was touring with them and brought the 15-year-old Neneh along. She and Ari lived in a squat in Battersea. She felt at home, after ending up there because The Slits invited Don Cherry to go on tour with them with Prince Hammer and Creation Rebel.
In London, Cherry joined the punk rock band The Cherries. She moved through several bands, including The Slits, New Age Steppers, Rip Rig + Panic, and Float Up CP. She also deejayed, playing early rap music on the reggae pirate Dread Broadcasting Corporation.
Raw Like Sushi
She began a solo career in 1982 with "Stop the War", a protest song about the Falklands War. She worked with Jonny Dollar, The The and Cameron McVey (a.k.a. Booga Bear), who co-wrote most of her 1989 debut album Raw Like Sushi, and whom she would eventually marry. She was intimately involved in the Bristol urban culture scene, working as an arranger on Massive Attack's Blue Lines album, through which she met Dollar. Both Robert Del Naja and Andrew Vowles of Massive Attack contributed to Raw Like Sushi.
The single "Buffalo Stance" eventually peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Dance chart. More singles released between 1988 and 1990 included "Manchild," "Kisses on the Wind," "Heart," and "Inna City Mama." She also found success with "I've Got You Under My Skin", a reworking of the Cole Porter song, which appeared on the Red Hot + Blue AIDS fundraising album. The single reached number 25 in the UK. Cherry was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1990 in the Best New Artist Category; she lost out to Milli Vanilli, who later had their Grammy revoked when it was discovered that they had not performed on their recording. She won a Brit Award in 1990 for Raw Like Sushi.
Cherry caused a press furore when she performed "Buffalo Stance" on Top of the Pops while pregnant (with her second child, Tyson).
Cherry's second album was 1992's Homebrew. Homebrew was not as commercially successful as its predecessor. The album had some success on various Billboard charts with songs "Buddy X" and "Trout".
"Buddy X" reached #4 on the Billboard Dance Club Music Charts where it spent a total of 11 weeks. The track also spent some time on Billboard′s Pop Songs Charts as well as The Hot 100 Charts, where it peaked at #22 during its 8-week run and peaked at #43 in its 12-week run, respectively.
The music video for "Buddy X" earned Neneh Cherry an MTV VMA nomination at the ceremony in 1993 for the Best Female Video category, alongside Janet Jackson, Annie Lennox, and k.d. lang, with lang winning the moonman.
"Trout" features additional vocals by R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe who helped to co-write the track along with Cherry, McVeigh, and Jonathan Sharp and contains samples of a guitar riff from Steppenwolf as well as drums by John Bonham. With airplay on College radio and increased popularity, "Trout" spent a total of 14 weeks on Billboard′s Alternative Music Charts where it reached number 2.
Homebrew also included the work of Geoff Barrow (on "Somedays"), who would later become part of Portishead.
Additional recognition was attributed to remixes of track "Buddy X". First was the 1993 remix by The Notorious B.I.G., which is considered by some to be "one of the great Biggie rarities in the world." Cherry stated that she and McVey picked up Biggie for the studio where they remained for the session. The song was completed in one take. "Buddy X" found success yet again in the 1999 remix by Dreem Teem.
"Move With Me" was co-written by Cherry, McVeigh and Lenny Kravitz.
1996's Man is a solo record produced by McVey, Jonny Dollar and Christian Falk. The lead track is "Woman", her take on James Brown's 1966 track "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It featured the worldwide hit single, "7 Seconds", featuring Youssou N'Dour; and "Trouble Man" a cover of a Marvin Gaye track. "7 Seconds" remained at number one in France for a record 16 weeks in 1994. Another track, "Together Now", featured Tricky.
Cherry received her second Grammy nomination in 1994 for "7 Seconds". In the MTV Europe Music Awards in 1994, "7 Seconds" won the Best Song title.
Neneh Chérie Remixes, a remix album of Man songs, was released in 1997.
Blank Project was written by Cherry and her husband McVey. Paul Simm co-wrote six tracks on the record. The record was deeply influenced by the death of her mother.
To promote the album, she announced a European tour for February and March 2014. In January 2015, Cherry performed as a solo artist in New York City. Cherry is very connected to New York, as she has visited or lived there off and on since 1966.
In August 2018, Cherry announced Broken Politics, her second album to be produced by Four Tet. The album was released on 19 October 2018, and has been called "quieter and more reflective" than Blank Project by Cherry. The lead single, "Kong", was released earlier in August.
The Cherry Bear Collective, Cherry's former company with McVey, is now called Nomad Productions and is based in west London.
In 2006, Cherry announced the formation of a new band, cirKus. In addition to Cherry, cirKus members were Cameron McVey, Lolita Moon (Neneh and Cameron's daughter Tyson) plus Karmil. CirKus toured Europe, with a single North American performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July 2006 plus a few dates in Brazil in 2008. The band's first album, Laylow, was released in France in 2006. A remixed/recorded version was released in 2007. A second CirKus album, Medicine, was released in France in March 2009.
The Cherry Thing
In March 2011, Cherry collaborated with the experimental jazz group The Thing, to release the record The Cherry Thing. The Thing is a Norwegian/Swedish jazz trio, consisting of Mats Gustafsson (saxophones), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (double bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). The Thing took their name from the third track on stepfather Don Cherry's album Where Is Brooklyn?. The album The Cherry Thing was released in June 2012 and was recorded at Harder Sound Studios in London, England and Atlantis Studios in Stockholm, Sweden.
During a 1 June 2012 interview with Kirsty Lang, broadcast as part of the BBC Radio 4's Front Row daily podcast, Cherry discussed the jazz-inspired album, saying that The Thing were inspired by Cherry's stepfather's work, but that the band makes this inspiration their own. "I think that we're taking it on, to another place. I think that's really important," Cherry said. One of the songs from the album, "Golden Heart", was written by Don Cherry; Christer Bothén, a musician who played with Don Cherry, was invited to play on the album, and brought the song to their attention.
The album includes tracks originally performed by an eclectic mix of artists, including hip-hop artist MF Doom, Martina Topley-Bird Suicide, and The Stooges'. Most of the tracks were recorded together live.
Other music projects
Although Cherry has only released a handful of albums, she has frequently collaborated with other artists.
In 2013, Cherry collaborated with London duo RocketNumberNine (named after a Sun Ra track), a.k.a. the Page Brothers — Ben and Tom Page — to record an album called MeYouWeYou. She also joined them to perform the entire album live at the Manchester International Festival in July 2013. The record is an album of 10 tracks that Cherry wrote with McVeigh, which they brought with only vocals to RocketNumberNine, who then did their musical interpretation to all the tracks. They recorded the album live in Woodstock, New York, with Vortex. The 10 tracks were recorded in five days. Cherry calls it fearless and hardcore.
- In the early 1980s, Cherry was a deejay on DBC radio, Dread Broadcasting Corporation, a pirate radio station.
- Cherry appeared in a non-singing capacity in Big Audio Dynamite's 1986 video for "C'mon Every Beatbox", dancing onstage with others during the band's performance
- In the late 1980s, Cherry helped to bankroll the band Massive Attack.
- In early 2004, Cherry presented Neneh Cherry's World of Music, a six-part series broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
- In April 2007, Cherry presented a six-part cookery show Neneh and Andi – Dish it Up with her friend Andrea Oliver for BBC Two.
- Neneh and Andi appeared on Gordon Ramsay's The F-Word as part of the amateur brigade.
- In November 2013, Cherry contributed to the art project/audio book Ällp written by Lars Yngve. Singer Peps Persson contributed music, while Cherry, Björn Ranelid and a few other celebrities, all with their roots in Sweden's most southern county Skåne, recorded the book in Skånska/Scanian dialect (not "standard Swedish", a.k.a. Rikssvenska).
Cherry said she has never really thought of herself as a rapper. She sees herself as a "singer that does a bit of rapping."
Breaking into the U.S. music industry was not a positive experience for Cherry. She said that while "Buffalo Stance" gave her a mainstream crossover moment in the U.S. she found the American music industry stiflingly attached to labels and genre identities.
- Raw Like Sushi (1989)
- Homebrew (1992)
- Man (1996)
- Blank Project (2014)
- Broken Politics (2018)
- BBC In Concert Neneh Cherry at Glastonbury Festival (1997)
With Rip Rig + Panic
- God (1981)
- I Am Cold (1982)
- Attitude (1983)
- Laylow (2006)
- Medicine (2009)
With The Thing
- The Cherry Thing (2012)
- 1982: "My Love" by New Age Steppers on album Action Battlefield - vocals (by Neneh Cherry) with Bim Sherman
- 1982: "Stop the War" by Raw Sex, Pure Energy on album Raw Sex, Pure Energy - featured vocals
- 1984: "Foot on the Rock" single by God Mother Country (GMC) - vocals with Nick Straker
- 1986: "Slow Train to Dawn" by The The on album Infected - duet with Matt Johnson (#64 in the UK)
- 1986: "Looking Good Diving with the Wild Bunch" by Morgan/McVey - rapped on the single's B-side version
- 1980s: "Dead Come Alive" produced by Adrian Sherwood, Neneh Cherry & The Circuit released in 2015 on Trevor Jackson Presents: Science Fiction Dancehall Classics by ONUDL129
- 1980s: "You've Got Me Thinking" by Jon Marsh of The Beloved (new version) - vocals. Although the track was never officially released, two demo versions were available from The Beloved's website
- 1994: "Turn My Back" single by Hiroshi Fujiwara featuring Neneh Cherry (from the album Nothing Much Better to Do) - lead vocals
- 1995: "1,2,3,4,5" by Trout's Charity album Help - lead vocals
- 1997: "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer movie soundtrack Addicted to Love - vocals (track appears in closing credits of film)
- 1997: "Germ Free Adolescents" BBC in Concert - Neneh Cherry at Glastonbury Festival 1997
- 1998: "Bali ha' i" by Moodswings's Soundtrack album Welcome to Woop Woop - guest vocals
- 1998: "Sweet Child of Mine" by Akasha's UK album Cinématique - guest vocals
- 1998: "Landscape of a Pissing Multitude" by John Tonks's album De Granada a la luna - guest vocals
- 1998: "Seductive Barry" by Pulp's UK #1 album This Is Hardcore - guest vocals
- 1990: "I've Got You Under My Skin" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization
- 1995: "Love Can Build a Bridge" by the Judds - vocals with Cher, Chrissie Hynde, and Eric Clapton (#1 in the UK charts for a week)
- 1998: "Walk into This Room" by Edward Kowalczyk, the lead singer of the band Live for the soundtrack to the movie Playing by Heart - vocals
- 1998: "Ganapati" by Trilok Gurtu and The Glimpse on the album Kathak - vocals
- 1999: "Moody" by ESG on Christian Falk's debut Quel Bordel
- 1999: "Twisted Mess," a collaboration with Craig Armstrong, was recorded for the soundtrack of the film Best Laid Plans. It was also included on the soundtrack to The Dancer (2000) and released as a promotional single on France's Delabel label
- 2000: Peter Gabriel's album OVO - vocals
- 2002: "The Groove Is On" and "Think Twice" by Groove Armada on their album Love Box - vocals
- 2003: "Braided Hair" by 1 Giant Leap - vocals with Speech and Ulali
- 2004: Renaissance presents Pacha Ibiza (mixed by Neneh Cherry, Andy B, Kiko Navarro & Wally Lopez) - on Stomp/EQ
- 2004: "Eyes on the Prize" by Wayne Wonder on Olympic games 2004's soundtrack - vocals
- 2005: "Kids with Guns" by Gorillaz on Demon Days - vocals
- 2006: Performed "Kids with Guns" in the Gorillaz' Demon Days Live concerts
- 2006: P by Swedish rapper Petter - rap in Swedish
- 2006: "Yours to Keep" by the Stockholm outfit Teddybears on their album Soft Machine - vocals
- 2006: "Million Miles," by Agoria on album The Green Armchair - vocals
- 2006: "High Drama," by the German DJ Timo Maas on album Pictures - vocals
- 2007: "Wake Up Africa" with Youssou N'Dour on his album Rokku Mi Rokka - duet
- 2008: "Forever" by Swedish producer Kleerup on his self-titled album - vocals
- 2011: "Ganesh" and "Dina kana gina" by Bengt Berger on album See You in a Minute - vocals
- 2013: "Real Woman" by producer House of Wallenberg on his self-titled album - vocals with Ari Up
- 2013: "Be Somebody Pt. II" by House of Wallenberg feat. Octavia St Laurent & Neneh Cherry
- 2013: "Freedom of Music" David Ornette Cherry - vocals with David Ornette Cherry and Tyson McVey
- 2015: "He She Me" commissioned by Selfridges - vocals with Devonte Hynes aka Blood Orange
- 2015: "Nina" produced by Four Tet - vocals with Afrika Baby Bam
- 2016: "Metaphors" produced by Loco Dice - vocals
- 2018: "Black Monday" Live Performance SESC Pompeia / São Paulo - vocals (on YouTube)
In 1983, Cherry married The Bank drummer Bruce Smith and had a daughter, Naima. They divorced in 1984. Naima is a London-based photographer, who had son Louis Clyde Flynn Love (who goes by Flynn) in 2004.
In 1986, Cherry met producer Cameron "Booga Bear" McVey at Heathrow Airport. Cherry and McVey were en route to Japan as fashion models as part of London designer Ray Petri's Buffalo Posse. Cherry proposed, and the two married in 1990. Cherry and McVey had two daughters: Tyson, born in 1989, and Mabel, born in 1996. Cherry and McVey have a collaborative work relationship: McVey produced and co-wrote Raw Like Sushi. Together they have supported a variety of British acts and they were in the group cirKus together. Via McVey's prior relationship with Vonnie Roudette, Cherry has a stepson, Marlon Roudette, who fronted the British duo Mattafix.
The Cherry-McVeys have lived throughout Europe. In 1993, they moved near Málaga, Spain and lived there until 1999. In 1995, they briefly lived in New York City. They bought a home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York. Soon after moving in, the couple was held up at gunpoint and robbed by a teenage hoodlum. The entire family packed up again and headed back to London's Primrose Hill.
They next returned to Cherry's childhood home in Hässleholm, Sweden, living in the same schoolhouse turned home (featured in Homebrew album artwork) in which Cherry was raised as a child.
The family has a country house near Birmingham and Wolverhampton, apartments in London and Stockholm, plus the family home in the old schoolhouse in Skåne County that she and her brother inherited when her mother died in 2009. As of 2014, Cherry says she commutes between London and Stockholm.
Since the late 1980s, Cherry has frequently worked with the stylist and jewelry designer Judy Blame.
|1990||Herself||Best International Breakthrough||Won|
|Best International Solo Artist|
|1991||Herself||Best International Female|
Danish Music Awards
|1995||"7 Seconds"||Best International Single||Won|
|1990||Herself||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|1995||"7 Seconds"||Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals||Nominated|
|1990||Herself||Best Female Pop/Rock Artist||Nominated|
|1993||Best Modern Dance||Nominated|
|2013||The Cherry Thing||Jazz Recording of the Year||Won|
Ivor Novello Awards
|1990||"Buffalo Stance"||International Hit of the Year||Nominated|
|1995||"7 Seconds"||International Hit of the Year||Nominated|
MTV Europe Music Awards
|1994||"7 Seconds"||Best Song||Won|
MTV Video Music Awards
|1989||"Buffalo Stance"||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|1991||"I've Got You Under My Skin"||Best Special Effects||Nominated|
|Best Female Video||Nominated|
Nordic Music Prize
|2014||Blank Project||Album of the Year||Nominated|
Rober Awards Music Poll
|2012||"Dream Baby Dream" (with The Thing)||Best Cover Version||Nominated|
Smash Hits Poll Winners Party
|1989||Herself||Most Promising New Solo Artist||Nominated|
UK Video Music Awards
|2018||"Kong"||Best Styling in a Video||Nominated|
|Best Color Grading in a Video||Nominated|