The daughter of painter Moki Cherry and West African percussionist Amadu Jah, Neneh was raised by her mother and stepfather Don Cherry, the celebrated jazz trumpeter and global music pioneer, and grew up shuttling between Stockholm and New York. Her earliest memories are of falling asleep in jazz clubs while her stepfather played in Ornette Coleman’s band. She recollects sitting in Miles Davis’ lap, music was a constant in her formative years.
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In New York during 1979 she joined a ska punk band called ‘ The Nails’ as bassist and backing vocalist. From there Neneh made contact with ‘The Slits’, a British all girl punk outfit who she briefly performed with. In 1981 while back in New York she got a call to let her know that local outfit ‘Rip Rig & Panic’ where looking for a lead singer and at the tender age of 17, Neneh found herself center stage for the first time. ‘Rip Rig & Panic’ merged punk, funk, jazz, soul and even traces of classical music. Neneh recorded three albums with the group, and in 1984 the band splintered into the short lived ‘Float Up CP’. When they broke up Neneh began working on her first solo demo recordings…among them was a song called ‘Buffalo Stance’.
Once released ‘Buffalo Stance’ crashed into the Billboard singles chart at #3. Its dance floor credibility combined with street smart attitude was only enhanced by an eight month pregnant Neneh performing on the British TV music show Top of the Pops. The record sold a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone. This was swiftly followed by the hit singles ‘Man Child’ and ‘Kisses on the Wind’. By the end of 1988, Neneh’s debut album ‘Raw Like Sushi’ was critically acclaimed as one of the best albums of the year. It has sold over three million copies worldwide.
Between then and 1992, Neneh found time to record Cole Porter’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ for the ‘Red, Hot and Blue’ AIDS benefit album. For a while Massive Attack temporarily camped in her London home where alongside her long time collaborators Johnny Dollar and Cameron McVey they worked on the demo’s that would eventually become their ground breaking debut album ‘Blue Lines’.
In 1991 while living back in Sweden work started on her second album ‘Homebrew’ which was created and recorded in the converted old schoolhouse in Sweden that Neneh had grown up in as a child. ‘Homebrew’ was a more thoughtful and well crafted album than its predecessor. It yielded the singles ‘Money Love’ and ‘Buddy X’, alongside collaborations with REM’s Michael Stipe on ‘Trout’, Guru from Gang Starr on ‘Sassy’ and Geoff Barrow (who would later form Portishead) on ‘Somedays’.
In 1994 Neneh began work on her third album ‘Man’. This schedule was interrupted when ‘Seven Seconds’ a track she, Dollar and McVey had co-written and recorded with African superstar Youssou N’Dour became a huge worldwide hit. The single stayed at #1 in France for seventeen weeks and sold three million copies there alone. ‘Seven Seconds’ reached #1 in a total of eighteen countries around the globe.
In 1996 the album ‘Man’ was released and it spawned the hit singles ‘Woman’, ‘ Feel It’ and ‘Kootchi’. Having rapidly become a top ten hit single throughout Europe, ‘Woman’ was a wry take on the James Brown classic ‘It’s A Man’s World’. While paying homage to the original it also simultaneously managed to both update and subvert that song’s message. It was also used within the opening credits for the movie ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ (New Line Cinema/Universal-MCA soundtrack). Most recently Neneh has been working alongside the other Cherry siblings to create a film documentary titled ’Eternal Rhythm’ about the life and music of Don Cherry. She also recorded the track ‘Long Way Round’ with her brother Eagle-Eye Cherry that appears on his sophomore album ‘Living In The Present Future’.
Neneh has also recently co-written and recorded the song ‘Twisted Mess’ that appeared in the motion picture ‘Best Laid Plans’ (20th Century Fox/Virgin soundtrack). For the movie ‘Playing By Heart’ (Miramax/Capitol soundtrack) Neneh recorded a duet with Edward Kowalczyk, lead singer from American band ‘Live’, titled ‘Walk Into This Room’. She also recorded a new version of ‘Ooh Child’ for the Jim McKay directed movie ‘Our Song’ which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Neneh has also been busy working on her new as yet untitled album with her long time collaborator and partner Cameron McVey. Material recorded for consideration for this project includes work with Sheryl Crow, Nigel Pulsford (of Bush), Huey (of Fun Lovin’ Criminals) and Moroccan singer Najat Aatabou.
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