Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn (b. 1968) is a British musician, producer and actor.  He is the co-albarnpicture3founder of the group Gorillaz, with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett.  Gorillaz is a virtual band of animated characters (2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs).  Albarn composes the music; Hewlett produces the videos.  The music draws on many genres: reggae, pop, trip hop, dub, gospel, electronica, etc.  On tour Gorillaz is staged by musicians performing in front of a screen playing a video of the animated characters or with the screen covering the entire stage and the musicians performing behind it.  The animated characters have also played on stage as holograms through Musion Eyeliner technology.  Albarn is the only regular member, a revolving cast of musicians filling the other roles.  Gorillaz’s albums include Demon Days; Plastic Beach; and Humanz.  They have been enormously popular, selling millions of albums.

Albarn has always been a prolific artist.  He was the lead singer of the Britpop group Blur.  With them he released several albums in the 1990’s, including Modern Life is Rubbish; Parklife; The Great Escape; and The Magic Whip.  Their “Song No. 2” was a world-wide hit.  After Blur disbanded in 2003, Albarn focused on his own career.  His only solo album has been Everyday Robots.  But he also played as part of an unnamed supergroup, releasing The Good, the Bad and the Queen.  In collaboration with others, he recorded the operas Monkey: Journey to the West and Doctor DeeHe has been involved with world music, releasing Mali Music, and he wrote the scores for the movie The Boy in the Oak and the musical Wonder.land.  As well, a few Blur reunions have occurred, resulting in more albums and tours.  Albarn also acted in the films Face and Anna and the Moods as well as in the radioplay Up Against It.  In 2006 he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of East London, and in 2016 he was appointed an Officer of the British Empire.

Albarn comes from a long line of Lincolnshire Quakers.  His grandfather, a Friend, was a conscientious objector during World War Two and was imprisoned and later suffered ostracism because of his stand.  His father was also a conscientious objector.  Albarn was one of the leaders of the antiwar resistance when Britain became involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.  In 2003 he was supposed to speak at a Hyde Park peace rally before hundreds of thousands of people but was too overcome when the moment came.  He said later that he had “this image of my grandad in his slippers reading the paper, knowing that his grandson had been involved in something which he’d put so much of his life into” and he “got over-emotional”.  He has been active in various charities, recording and playing music for Oxfam and the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Albarn didn’t grow up a Quaker.  Raised in a bohemian family in the 1960’s, however, he was brought up in a very open and inquiring household.  He was exposed to Sufism and Hinduism.  And a Quaker influence persisted, through his grandfather.

I had been unfamiliar with Damon Albarn’s music, with the exception of “Song No. 2”.  So it was a joy to begin to explore his rich music.  I loved Gorillaz, his virtual band, especially the song “Feel Good Inc.”  Great innovation and great fun!

Here is a link to “Feel Good Inc.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyHNuVaZJ-k

July 2017

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