It is a simple equation, sass plus attitude = SASSITUDE. There has been a roll call of ladies with an attitude through the years who have inspired and impressed – Mae West, Bette Davis, Anna Magnani, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Ute Lempur, Marlene Dietrich, Isabella Rossellini, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Frida Kahlo, P. J. Harvey, Alison Goldfrapp, Annie Clark and of course Madonna – to name a select few. But this week I would like to salute the disco ball that hovers around the Cosmos and say: Happy Birthday Grace Jones.
In an era when people are all the more obsessed with age, I love the fact that Madame J just keeps on dancing. Ignoring the usual sneers, ‘she’s too old to wear that, to dance that way’ etc. As if suddenly you hit an age and you lose who you are. Dis-Grace keeps performing in underground night clubs, mixing music with Tricky and Eno, even hula-hooping for Her Majesty’s pleasure. I wonder if Ms. Jones has a portrait in the attic of Studio 54, as she looks no different to her Seventies’ self.
Apparently her svelte, curved figure is crafted by cycling across the British countryside. She also has an alleged penchant for red wine, prompting her mates to nickname her ‘Grapes’.
I remember having a re-occurring nightmare about Grace when I was a kid. At the time she was in a car advert, where an automobile bolted out of her mouth. I also recall she was a more fearsome James Bond villain than Jaws, Oddjob or any of the other cast of crooks, playing Mayday. Even making Roger Moore’s eyebrow rise higher than usual! A feat in its own right.
I fulfilled one of my life ambitions by seeing her in concert a few years ago in Manchester. She was promoting the mesmerizingly mega music scape that was ‘Hurricane’. The album came complete with photography and art work composed by Banksy. A surge of surreal images of Grace working at a chocolate factory on the production line, the chanteuse sculpting an image of herself to be consumed commercially. Something I regretted did not make the shelves of Thornton’s or any other confectioners.
The performance that night in Manchester was wonderfully electric. With the diva arriving on stage on a cherry-picker, wearing just a black corset and a melee of Philip Treacy hats and fascinators. A unique style being modelled for each song. Pure, unadulterated Cabaret!
I’ve also seen other self-titled divas perform, who rely too, too heavily on theatrics and special effects to woo and wow their audiences. To distract from not really having too much talent, all concert entertainment by numbers, with audio and visuals modified for the DVD release. So ladies and gentleman, Ms. Grace Jones, long may she reign. This year on her birthday, May 19th, I raised a glass in honour of Amazing Grace – Happy Birthday Grace Jones.
I will always be a slave to her rhythm.
Now get me to a discothèque.
Photographs of Grace on stage by Stefan Ravn and graffiti by Kars Alfrink
Thank you for making my day John!