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Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn in 2007
Background information
Birth name Damon Albarn
Born 23 March 1968 (1968-03-23) (age 41)
Whitechapel, London
Origin Colchester, England
Genres Britpop, Alternative rock, Alternative hip hop, hip hop, world music
Occupations Musician, Singer-songwriter, Record Producer
Instruments vocals, guitar, piano, organ, violin, recorder, vibraphone, synthesizer, melodica, bass guitar, drums
Years active 1988 - present
Associated acts Blur
The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Monkey: Journey to the West
Website Blur
The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Damon Albarn (English pronunciation: /ˈdeɪmən ˈɔːlbɑːn/, born March 23, 1968) is an English singer-songwriter and record producer. He has been involved in many high profile projects and collaborations throughout his career. Albarn came to prominence as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur, but is also known internationally for his work with popular virtual band Gorillaz, within which he serves as the principal songwriter and lead vocalist. Subsequent projects have included The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Monkey: Journey to the West and Mali Music.


Early life

Albarn was born in Whitechapel London in 1968, and grew up with his bohemian middle-class family in Leytonstone, later moving to Colchester, Essex.[1][2] He attended the George Tomlinson Primary School, and studied piano, guitar, and violin, and became friends with Graham Coxon when he was aged 12, both being students at the Stanway Comprehensive School at the time.[3] At 15, he won the regional heat in the Young Composer of the Year contest.[3] He studied drama at the East 15 Acting School in Debden, leaving after the first year.[2] On leaving drama school he performed as a mime artist, and worked as a tea boy at the Beat Factory studio.[2] He then attended a part-time music course at Goldsmiths, University of London in London. His first band was the synth pop group Two's a Crowd.[3] Other pre-Blur bands that he was involved with were The Aftermath and Real Lives.[2]

His father, Keith Albarn, was for a time the manager of Soft Machine and presenter of the BBC's Late Night Line-Up, and also the head of North Essex College of Art, which was combined with other East London colleges to form the North East London Polytechnic which exists today as the University of East London.[1][2][4] His mother, Hazel, was a theatrical set designer.[2] He has a sister, Jessica, born in 1971.[2]


Blur were an English alternative rock band. Formed in London in 1989 as Seymour, the group consisted of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur's debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change—influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC—Blur released the Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995) albums. As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a famous chart battle with rival band Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop".

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, influenced by the lo-fi style of American indie rock bands such as Pavement. "Song 2", one of the album's singles, brought Blur brief mainstream success in the US. The last album featuring Blur's original lineup, 13 (1999) found the band members experimenting with electronic music and gospel music, as Albarn wrote more personal lyrics. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn's growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. Subsequently, Blur reunited in 2009 with Coxon back in the fold. Following a series of successful concerts, Blur members have stated that the group has no immediate plans for the future.

The Start

Albarn, the son of an author/art professor and a theatrical stage designer, met guitarist Graham Coxon, a self-taught musician whose father played in an army band, in school in Colchester in 1980. The pair collaborated on some demos before heading off to different art colleges - Albarn to study acting, Coxon to pursue art. They met up again at a party on behalf of Albarn’s band Circus, which featured drummer Dave Rowntree, a classically trained percussionist. Coxon introduced Albarn to his school friend Alex James, and when Circus folded, the four began recording demos and performing club gigs in late 1989 under the name Seymour (after a J.D. Salinger character). EMI-distributed Food Records signed them in 1990, whereupon they changed their name to Blur and debuted with the Top 50 British single “She’s So High.” “There’s No Other Way” fared even better, and Leisure, released a year later, went to #2 on the U.K. album chart. The followup, Modern Life Is Rubbish, peaked at #17,

Britpop years

In 1994’s chart-topping Parklife, featuring the hit “Girls and Boys,” cemented Blur as British superstars and won the band four BRIT Awards, including Best Group and Best Album. By the time Blur released 1995’s The Great Escape, it was locked in a battle of the bands with a new contender to the Brit-pop throne, working-class heroes Oasis. The U.K. press made front-page news out of each band’s bid for #1 with their new singles, and Blur’s “Country House” beat out Oasis’ “Roll With It” by a narrow margin. It was the #1 Oasis album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, however, that “won” in the end earning the Manchester band bragging rights as the biggest new band in the U.K. and significant stateside success, while The Great Escape stalled on the U.S. chart at #150.

Reinvention after Britpop: 1996–2000

Blur’s U.S. breakthrough came in 1997 with “Song 2,” a hard-rock blitzkrieg from its self-titled fifth album (#61, 1997). The song’s exuberant “woo-hoo!” chorus made it a favorite at sporting events, though the band turned down the U.S. military’s bid to use it at the unveiling of the new Stealth bomber. Blur was heavily informed by the group’s love of American lo-fi rockers Pavement and bore little in common with the clean, theatrical pop sound on which it had built their British following. They went even further off the track with the William Orbit–produced 13 (#80, 1999), though the album kicked off with a lush ballad, “Tender.” Albarn had recently split with girlfriend Justine Frischmann of Elastica, and many of 13’s songs were mined from the ashes of their eight-year relationship.

Despite a handful of side projects (two lo-fi solo albums by Coxon, and Albarn’s score [in collaboration with Michael Nyman] to the movie Ravenous, Blur came out of its first decade in one piece. During an extended and tumultuous period leading up to their next project, 2003’s Think Tank Coxon began distancing himself from the direction he saw the production of the album going. He soon left, although it remains unclear who made the ultimate decision. The remaining members continued seeking creative satisfaction in various solo projects. Albarn released his Gorillaz’s Demon Days in 2005 which received a Grammy for the single “Feel Good Inc.” while Dave Rowntree set-up his own animation company Nanomation, moonlighting as the drummer for the Ailerons.

Solo career

Albarn released Mali Music in 2002, recorded in Mali, during a trip he made to support Oxfam in 2000. He has also visited Nigeria to record music with African drummer Tony Allen. Albarn says he would like to produce a Blur album in Baghdad as he "likes the Iraqi style of music".

Damon Albarn.jpg

He also released Democrazy in 2003, a collection of demos he recorded while staying in hotel rooms on the U.S. portion of Blur's tour for Think Tank.

Albarn has also appeared on other unrelated works. His song "Closet Romantic" appeared on the soundtrack for Trainspotting alongside an early Blur recording, "Sing". The Rentals' 1999 Album Seven More Minutes features Albarn on the track "Big Daddy C". Fatboy Slim's 2004 release Palookaville featured Albarn's vocals on the song "Put It Back Together". Albarn provided the voiceover intro and backing vocals in the song "Time Keeps On Slipping" for the rap concept album Deltron 3030, and featured on the track "Lovage (Love That Lovage, Baby)" for the Lovage album Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. Both albums were produced by Dan the Automator, who also produced Gorillaz' debut album. Albarn also composed the score with collaboration by Michael Nyman for the 1999 movie "Ravenous" with Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. In 2000, he composed the main part of the soundtrack for the crime comedy Ordinary Decent Criminal.

In October 2007, Q Magazine released a 21st birthday special. Inside featured the "21 Artists who Changed Music" with 8 pages dedicated to Damon Albarn for his work in Blur, Gorillaz, and The Good the Bad and the Queen. In the article, Albarn expressed an interest in releasing a solo record under his own name, containing romantic songs.

He also produced in 2008 parts of Amadou & Mariam's fifth album Welcome to Mali.

In September 2009, Albarn appeared on stage during Massive Attack's first date at London's Brixton Academy to sing a track.[5]


Gorillaz is a virtual band composed of four animated band members created in 1998 by Damon Albarn of Britpop band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. The band's music is a collaboration between various musicians; Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is broadly alternative rock, but with a large number of other influences including: Britpop, dub, hip-hop, and pop music.[6][7]

In 2001, the band's eponymous debut album sold over seven million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band.[8] It was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request.[9] Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the singles "Feel Good Inc.", "Dare", "Dirty Harry" and "Kids with Guns"/"El Mañana". Demon Days went five times platinum in the UK,[10] double platinum in the United States[11] and earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006[12] and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.[13] Gorillaz have also released two B-sides compilations and a remix album. The combined sales of Gorillaz and Demon Days had, by 2007, exceeded 15 million albums.[14] The group released their third studio album, Plastic Beach in early 2010.

The Good, the Bad and the Queen

Albarn in 2007

In May 2006, NME reported that Albarn was working with Danger Mouse on his first solo album, tentatively titled The Good, the Bad and the Queen. However, in July 2006, NME reported that those plans had been switched to the formation of a new band titled The Good, the Bad and the Queen. This proved to be inaccurate, as Albarn and other members of the group have indicated that The Good, the Bad and the Queen is the name of the album and not the band itself.[15][16][17] The album was awarded Best Album at the 2007 MOJO Awards on 18 June.[18]

The group's line-up is composed of Albarn, former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, The Verve/Gorillaz guitarist Simon Tong, and drummer Tony Allen of Fela Kuti's band, Africa 70. Danger Mouse produced the album and decided on the final track listing.

The first single by the line-up, "Herculean", was released in late October 2006, and peaked at #22 in the UK Singles Chart. A second single, "Kingdom of Doom", and the band's debut album were then released in January 2007. That single fared slightly better than "Herculean", peaking at #20, while the album peaked at #2 in the UK Albums Chart and went gold during its first week of release in the UK. "Green Fields" was released as the third single from the album in April 2007, just missing out on the Top 50.

On 27 April 2008, The Good The Bad And The Queen headlined the Love Music Hate Racism Carnival in Victoria Park where they introduced on stage several guests including ex-Specials keyboard player Jerry Dammers.

Monkey: Journey to the West

In their first major work together since Gorillaz, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, along with acclaimed Chinese theatre and opera director Chen Shi-zheng, adapted for stage the Chinese story Journey to the West. as "Monkey: Journey to the West", which received its world premiere as the opening show of the 2007 Manchester International Festival, on 28 June 2007 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.[19] Albarn wrote the score, Hewlett designed the set and costumes.

The opera was Albarn and Hewlett's second collaboration with the Manchester International Festival. In November 2005, they staged the first-ever live performances of Demon Days Live involving many of the artists who had played on the successful Demon Days album, as a launch event for the festival.

Prince Barry

Gorillaz character Murdoc Niccals mentioned on 8 March, 2010, that Damon Albarn was starting a solo album under the name Prince Barry.[20][21]

Personal life

Albarn had a long-standing relationship with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann.[1] His involvement with her profoundly influenced his songwriting in Blur in the mid-to-late 1990s.[citation needed] He now lives in Bayswater, London with artist Suzi Winstanley, and their daughter Missy Violet (born 2 October 1999, Westminster,[22] London).[citation needed]

Albarn in 2009

Albarn was very close to his grandfather, Edward Albarn, who had been a conscientious objector in the Second World War and was involved in a farming community in Lincolnshire. Albarn himself is outspokenly anti-war and has criticised British involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002 he and Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack took out full page advertisements in the NME challenging the need for war. Albarn contributed backing vocals to a song on Massive Attack's 100th Window, released the following year.

In 2005 Albarn, among others, criticised the London Live 8 concert for not featuring enough black artists; among the few included were Ms. Dynamite, Snoop Dogg, and Youssou N'Dour. Eventually the organisers added a separate concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall to the programme in order to showcase African musicians. Albarn said he did not want to perform at Live 8 because he thought it was too "exclusive" and may have been motivated by self-gain.[23]

In the nineties he spent a good deal of time in Reykjavík and for a time he became something of a permanent fixture in the "Kaffibarinn", a café/bar.[citation needed] He currently owns a house in Grafarvogur, a suburb of Reykjavík. He composed the soundtrack to the 2000 Icelandic film 101 Reykjavík.

Albarn is a vocal critic of celebrity culture, saying "We need to dismantle very significant parts of our culture and really re-examine them. I suppose you start with the celebrity thing.... you have to get rid of things like The X Factor immediately."[24]

Albarn is a fan of The Kinks which inspired his band Blur. Albarn performed Waterloo Sunset with Ray Davies in the mid 1990s.

The glass bead necklace he frequently wears was a gift given to him by his mother when he was six.

In 2006, Albarn was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of East London,[25] saying it was "great to receive [the] award from an institution where my dad used to work and which I, as a child, used to think of as that big building with lots of interesting people in".[1]


Albums and chart positions

Year Album Artist credit Peak chart positions and Certifications
U.K. U.S. AUS GER Certifications
1991 Leisure Blur 7 Gold (UK)
1993 Modern Life is Rubbish 15 Gold (UK)
1994 Parklife 1 45 4x Platinum (UK)
The Special Collectors Edition
1995 The Great Escape 1 150 10 35 3x Platinum (UK)
1996 Live at the Budokan
1997 Blur 1 61 22 23 Platinum (UK), Gold (US)
1998 Bustin' + Dronin' 50
1999 13 1 80 12 6 Platinum (UK)
Blur 10 Yr Box Set
Ravenous OST Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn
2000 Blur: The Best Of Blur 3 186 23 35 2x Platinum (UK)
Ordinary Decent Criminal OST Damon Albarn (+ various artists)
2001 Gorillaz Gorillaz 3 14 17 3 2x Platinum (UK), Platinum (US)
Gold (AUS), Gold (GER)
2002 G-Sides 65 84
Laika Come Home Spacemonkeyz vs Gorillaz 156
101 Reykjavik OST Damon Albarn & Einar Örn Benediktsson
Mali Music Damon Albarn, Afel Bocoum,
Toumani Diabaté & Friends
2003 Think Tank Blur 1 56 30 8 Gold (UK)
Democrazy Damon Albarn
2005 Demon Days Gorillaz 1 6 2 2 5x Platinum (UK), 3x Platinum (NZ)
3x Platinum (IRE), 2x Platinum (US)
2x Platinum (AUS), Platinum (CAN)
Platinum (HK),Gold(RUS)
2007 The Good, the Bad & the Queen Damon Albarn, Tony Allen,
Paul Simonon and Simon Tong
2 49 13 8 Gold (UK)
D-Sides Gorillaz 63 166
2008 Journey to the West Monkey 5
2009 Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur Blur 20
All the People... Blur: Live in Hyde Park 44
2010 Plastic Beach Gorillaz 2 2 1 3

Acting career

Albarn was featured in Antonia Bird's 1997 film Face. Albarn was also featured in Gunar Karlsson's 2007 film Anna and the Moods.


  1. ^ a b c Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1 84195 335 0, p.635
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Harris, John (2003) "Damon Albarn: From Cool Britannia to radical campaigner for peace", The Independent, 15 February 2003
  3. ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason "Damon Albarn Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
  4. ^ "UEL - Our History". 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Mar, Alex (2005-06-02). "Demon Days : Gorillaz : Review : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  7. ^ Steininger, Alex (November 2001). "In Music We Trust - Gorillaz: Gorillaz". In Music We Trust. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  8. ^ Cooper, James (2007-11-19). "Gorillaz: D-Sides".$1170827.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  9. ^ "Mercury Music Prize: The nominees". BBC News Online. 2001-07-25. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  10. ^ "Platinum Awards Content - Demon Days". British Phonographic Industry. 2006-02-24. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  11. ^ "Gorillaz RIAA certifications". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  12. ^ "EMI Music earns 54 Grammy nominations". EMI. 2005-12-08. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  13. ^ "EMI Music Publishing Wins Big At The Grammys!". EMI. 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  14. ^ Marchetto, Sean (2007-01-25). "Living In A Virtual World". Fast Forward Weekly. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  15. ^ "It's all a bit of a blur for Damon". 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  16. ^ "Good, Bad and super". 2007-02-03.,23739,21126426-5003421,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  17. ^ "The band with no name". 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  18. ^ "Osbourne scoops 'icon' at Mojo Awards". BBC News. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  19. ^ Totally catchy monkey, Guardian Unlimited 2 July 2007
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Births England and Wales 1984-2006
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Albarn condemns celebrity culture". BBC News. 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  25. ^ "Albarn Awarded Honourary MA at UEL". 

External links

Simple English

Damon Albarn
File:Damon Albarn - Gorillaz - Roskilde Festival
Background information
Birth name Damon Albarn
Born 23 March 1968 (1968-03-23) (age 42)
Whitechapel, London, England
Origin Colchester, England
Genres Alternative rock, Britpop
Occupations Musician, Singer-songwriter, Record Producer, Composer
Instruments vocals, guitar, piano, organ, violin, recorder, vibraphone, synthesiser, melodica, bass guitar, drums, keyboards
Years active 1988–present
Associated acts Blur
The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Monkey: Journey to the West
Massive Attack
Website Blur
The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Damon Albarn (IPA: /ˈdeɪmən ˈɔːlbɑrn/, born 23 March 1968) is an English singer-songwriter and record producer who has been involved in many high profile projects and groups throughout his career. He is perhaps best known internationally for his current role as the frontman and songwriter of Gorillaz, whose first two studio albums had sold more than 20 million copies together by 2007.[1] Albarn also serves as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur, and has been in such projects as The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Monkey: Journey to the West and Mali Music.

Albarn was voted the 4th greatest frontman of all time in a national 2010 Q magazine poll.[2]


  1. Marchetto, Sean (25 January 2007). "Living In A Virtual World". Fast Forward Weekly. Archived from the original on 1 January 0000. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  2. "Liam Gallagher crowned best frontman". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 May 2010.

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