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In her own words...


On starting out with folk

IN THE early 1960s, I couldn't afford a band. I made my first record when I was 14. So I just did folk stuff. You can't do blues when you are very young. You have to have experienced life, love, heaven and hell many times in order for it to come out in how you sing. Blues is something that comes out of the heart.

On getting into films and theatre

I started writing my music from the age of 11. I always knew I wanted to be a musician. But I got sidetracked in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of the way I looked into doing film roles. I was a pretty good-looking young starlety type. At the same time, I was getting offered musicals. I was the first Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. And that was quite a big role. By the time, folk was right out to the window. I had already got a rock band together.

On switching to blues

By the time Jesus Christ Superstar had started, I had already got a blues band together in 1973. Even then although I loved blues more than anything else, I still liked that kind of singing ... I guess you could call it pop. I guess I needed a serious upset in my life to realise I could sing the blues. And the upset was that by 1974, I got caught up in most dreadful lawsuits. I had a knee operation and couldn't walk properly for two years. I had no money, had broken up with the guy I was living with, couldn't walk and couldn't record. Couldn't record was the worst thing. When you hit real bottom, you realise what it is to be walking painful. I started making blues albums in 1980 after I went to Vienna to do a play.

On the India connection

I have always been in love with India. I have been coming here for 30 years and from the very first time I felt as if I was coming home. In the early 80s, I had a hit with a tune I had based on a Mohammed Rafi song. I had heard this song and I didn't know who Mohammed Rafi was then and I still don't know what the title of the song is. I called it `Move Your Body Close To Me'. I went on and did an album, which had some melodies that I borrowed from Pankaj Udhas.

India has borrowed melodies from the West, so I was kind of doing the reverse.

On the Sai Baba connection

Twenty years ago, I read a book on Sai Baba. I did something I never normally do. I leapt on a plane and went to see him at Puttaparthi. And I did that twice a year for 12 or 14 years and he ignored me each time. Never talked to me or anything. But I always knew I had to be there. Then for his 70th birthday, I got a call and was asked whether I would go and play there with my blues band. So I started investigating bhajans. And I thought I would change my name so that blues fans wouldn't get confused. I mean if I called myself Dana Gillespie and people went and bought an album... .hot damn, they might discover it was Ganesha bhajans.

On being called the Queen of Raunchy Blues

I did three albums (in this genre). For these, I researched all the tongue-in-cheek, sexual lyrics in the old days from the 1920s to the 1940s. All of these are blues songs and they have humour in them.

The style is raunchy, very basic, very earthy... this is what I do for a living. It is music below the belt unlike jazz even though the two forms cross occasionally. I feel missionary like coming to India with blues because people here are not familiar with blues even though they are with jazz.

M.P

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