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Claudius Afolabi "Labi" Siffre (born 25 June 1945) is a British singer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Siffre released six albums between 1970 and 1975, and four between 1988 and 1998. He has published essays, the stage and TV play Deathwrite, and three volumes of poetry: Nigger, Blood on the Page, and Monument.

Labi Siffre
Birth nameClaudius Afolabi Siffre
Born (1945-06-25) 25 June 1945 (age 74)
Hammersmith, London, England
GenresSoul, jazz, funk, soft rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter,
poet, writer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1970–present
LabelsEMI, Pye, China


Early life and educationEdit

Claudius Afolabi Siffre was born as the fourth of five children at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in Hammersmith, London to a British mother of BarbadianBelgian descent and a Nigerian father. Siffre was brought up in Bayswater and Hampstead and educated at a Catholic independent day school, St Benedict's School, in Ealing, west London.[1] Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist.[2]

Musical careerEdit

Siffre played jazz guitar at Annie Ross's jazz club in Soho in the 1960s as part of a Hammond organ, guitar, drums house band.[2]

He released six albums between 1970 and 1975. In the 1970s, he released 16 singles,[citation needed] three of which became hits: "It Must Be Love" (No. 14, 1971) (later covered by and a No. 4 hit for Madness, for which Siffre himself appeared in the video); "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" (No. 11, 1972); and "Watch Me" (No. 29, 1972).[3] In 1978, Siffre took part in the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest. He performed his own composition "Solid Love", which placed fifth of the twelve songs up for consideration at the A Song for Europe contest. Additionally, he co-wrote the song "We Got It Bad" performed by Bob James, which came tenth.

Siffre came out of self-imposed retirement from music in 1985, when he saw a television film from Apartheid South Africa showing a white soldier shooting at black children.[4] He wrote "(Something Inside) So Strong" (No. 4, 1987)[3] and released four more albums between 1988 and 1998.

Different parts of Siffre's 1975 track "I Got The..." were sampled in popular hip hop music songs in the 1990s, most notably in the 1999 Eminem single "My Name Is". As a result of the song's newfound fame, it was finally released as a single in 2006.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

Siffre met Peter John Carver Lloyd in July 1964. They remained together until Lloyd's death in 2013, having entered a civil partnership in 2005, as soon as this was possible in the UK.[2] In 2014 Siffre appeared on the BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives, championing the life of British author Arthur Ransome. Siffre said that Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books had taught him responsibility for his own actions and also a morality that has influenced and shaped him throughout his life.


Studio albumsEdit

Live albumsEdit

  • The Last Songs (Re-mastered)" (2006)

UK charting singlesEdit

Cover versions of Siffre's songsEdit

  • A cover version plays on the TV show "This is Us". -unknown
  • Olivia Newton-John covered "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" in 1975 on her gold-certified MCA album Clearly Love. Olivia and Labi's paths have crossed more than once over the years, as illustrated by the fact that Labi and Olivia duetted on a live version of her number-1 pop hit "You're the One That I Want".
  • Madness covered "It Must Be Love" in 1981. The song reached Number 4 in the UK charts and Number 33 in the U.S. in 1983. Labi Siffre also made a cameo appearance in the music video.
  • "(Something Inside) So Strong" was covered by Kenny Rogers in 1989 (and became the title track to a hit album). The song was also covered by Vanessa Bell Armstrong in 1988 and again by a host of gospel artists as a tribute to Rosa Parks in the mid-1990s. It was covered by "eternal" in 1994 as part of their EP Crazy. In late 2009, it also featured in the hit BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey, where it was adapted into a Welsh chapel christening ceremony.
    • The Flying Pickets covered the song in their 1992 album The Warning.
    • Michael Ball also released a cover of the song in 1996, which reached Number 40 in the UK.
    • Rik Waller, while a contestant on Pop Idol, reached #25 in the UK Singles Chart with the song in 2002.
  • Kelis covered "Bless the Telephone" for her sixth studio album Food in 2014.
  • RJD2's song "Making Days Longer", from his album Since We Last Spoke, is a cover of Siffre's "Bless the Telephone", from The Singer and the Song. Siffre is credited as writer of the original song in the liner notes.
  • Blank & Jones covered "Down" for their 2007 chill-out album Relax Edition Three.
  • Joss Stone covered "I Got The..." on her sixth album The Soul Sessions Vol 2.
  • Rod Stewart covered "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" on his 1995 compilation Handbags & Gladrags (Mercury UK).
  • Move4Parkinson's Voices of Hope Choir covered "Something Inside So Strong" in April 2013 to commemorate World Parkinson's Day.[6] The song reached Number 1 in the Irish R&B iTunes chart.
  • Greta Van Fleet performed "Watch Me" at Lollapalooza 2019, Brazil, and again on 18 May 2019 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ USA.


"I Got The..."Edit

The song "I Got The..." has especially been heavily used by hip hop artists. Artists who have sampled different parts of the song include:



  • Nigger (Xavier Books 1993)
  • Blood on the Page (Xavier Books 1995)
  • Monument (Xavier Books 1997)


  • DeathWrite (Xavier Books 1997)


  • Choosing the Stick They Beat You With (Penguin 2000)


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002) The Virgin Encyclopedia of 70s Music p.398. Virgin, 2002, ISBN 978-1852279479
  2. ^ a b c "Q&A: Labi Siffre". New Humanist. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2016. I've always been an atheist. I've never had religious belief. Pre-teens, I assumed God was in the same make-believe category as Father Christmas; a game of pretend between children and grown-ups.
  3. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 498. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ Mathur, Paul (August 1989). "So Strong". Spin: 32. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  5. ^ Jones, Lucy (27 September 2012). "When Sampling Goes Wrong". NME. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  6. ^ [1] Archived 13 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Jon Kennedy's 'Tell Me How You Feel' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled.

External linksEdit