Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry at Tauron Nowa Muzyka in 2014 in Katowice, Poland

Neneh Cherry at Tauron Nowa Muzyka 2014 in Katowice, Poland
Background information
Birth name Neneh Mariann Karlsson
Born (1964-03-10) 10 March 1964
Stockholm, Sweden
Years active 1981–present

Neneh Mariann Karlsson (born 10 March 1964), better known as Neneh Cherry, is a Swedish singer-songwriter, rapper, and occasional DJ and broadcaster.[1][2]

Early life and family

Cherry was born as Neneh Karlsson in Stockholm, the daughter of Monica "Moki" Karlsson, a Swedish painter and textile artist, and the musician Ahmadu Jah. Jah was born in Sierra Leone, the son of a chief. He went to Stockholm to study engineering at university.[3]

Cherry's mother married the influential American jazz musician Don Cherry, who helped raise Cherry since birth. Cherry took her stepfather's surname.[1]

Cherry has a half-sister, singer Titiyo, and half-brother, record producer Cherno Jah, from her father Ahmadu Jah's marriage to Maylen Jah (née Bergström). Cherry also has a half-brother, musician Eagle-Eye Cherry, a stepsister, violinist Jan Cherry, and a stepbrother, jazz musician David Ornette Cherry from stepfather Don Cherry's side.

Cherry's parents, Moki and Don Cherry, bought and converted an old schoolhouse in the countryside outside the small town of Hässleholm in Sweden in 1970.[4] In the early 1970s, the family moved to the United States, when Don Cherry taught at Dartmouth College.[5] Cherry dropped out of school at 14 and moved to London.[6]


Cherry said she found her voice singing along with Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex. She grew up in a musical family; she remembers singing with her father at the piano.[7]

Early work

Cherry moved to the United Kingdom when she was 14, at the end of the Punk era, and she remembers finding "her people" there. Cherry had met Tessa Pollitt, Viv Albertine and Ari Up from The Slits earlier as her stepfather, Don Cherry, was touring with them and brought the 15-year-old Neneh along.[8] She and Ari lived in a squat in Battersea. She felt at home, after ending up there because The Slits invited her stepfather, Don Cherry, to go on tour with them with Prince Hammer and Creation Rebel.[4]

In London, Cherry joined the punk rock band The Cherries. She moved through several bands, including The Slits, New Age Steppers, Rip Rig + Panic, and Float Up CP.[9] She also deejayed, playing early rap music on the reggae pirate Dread Broadcasting Corporation.[10]


Raw Like Sushi

Main article: Raw Like Sushi

She began a solo career in 1982 with "Stop the War", a protest song about the Falklands War. She worked with Jonny Dollar, The The and Cameron McVey (a.k.a. Booga Bear), who co-wrote most of her 1989 debut album Raw Like Sushi, and whom she would eventually marry.[1] She was intimately involved in the Bristol Urban Culture scene, working as an arranger on Massive Attack's Blue Lines album, through which she met Dollar. Both Robert Del Naja and Andrew Vowles of Massive Attack contributed to Raw Like Sushi.

The single "Buffalo Stance" eventually peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100,[1] and number 1 on the US Dance chart. More singles released between 1988 and 1990 included "Manchild," "Kisses on the Wind," "Heart," and "Inna City Mama." She also found success with "I've Got You Under My Skin", a reworking of the Cole Porter song, which appeared on the Red Hot + Blue AIDS fundraising album. The single reached number 25 in the UK.[1] Cherry was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1990 in the Best New Artist Category; she lost out to Milli Vanilli, who later had their Grammy revoked when it was discovered that they had not performed on their recording. She won a Brit Award in 1990 for Raw Like Sushi.

Cherry caused a press furore when she performed "Buffalo Stance" on Top of the Pops while pregnant (with her second child, Tyson).[9]


Cherry's second album was 1992's Homebrew. Homebrew was not as commercially successful as its predecessor.[1] The album had some success on various Billboard charts with songs "Buddy X" and "Trout."

"Buddy X" reached #4 on the Billboard Dance Club Music Charts where it spent a total of 11 weeks. The track also spent some time on Billboard's Pop Songs Charts as well as The Hot 100 Charts, where it peaked at #22 during its 8 week run and peaked at #43 in its 12 week run, respectively.

The music video for "Buddy X" earned Neneh Cherry an MTV VMA nomination at the ceremony in 1993 for the Best Female Video category, alongside Janet Jackson, Annie Lennox, & k.d. lang, with lang winning the moonman.

"Trout" features additional vocals by R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe who helped to cowrite the track along with Cherry, McVeigh, & Jonathan Sharp and contains samples of a guitar riff from Steppenwolf as well as drums by John Bonham. With airplay on College radio and increased popularity, "Trout" spent a total of 14 week on Billboard's Alternative Music Charts where it reached #2.

Homebrew also included the work of Geoff Barrow (on "Somedays"), who would later become part of Portishead.

Additional recognition was attributed to remixes of track "Buddy X". First was the 1993 remix by The Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls which is considered by some to be "one of the great Biggie rarities in the world."[11] Cherry stated that she and McVey picked up Biggie for the studio where they remained for the session. The song was completed in one take.[11] "Buddy X" found success yet again in the 1999 remix by Dreem Teem.

Cherry performing in Vienna in 1996

1996's Man is a solo record produced by McVey, Jonny Dollar and Christian Falk. The lead track is "Woman", her take on James Brown's 1966 track "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It featured the worldwide hit single, "7 Seconds", featuring Youssou N'Dour; and "Trouble Man" a cover of a Marvin Gaye track. "7 Seconds" remained at number 1 in France for a record 16 weeks in 1994.[12] Another track, "Together Now", featured Tricky.

Cherry received her second Grammy nomination in 1994 for "7 Seconds". In the MTV Europe Music Awards in 1994, "7 Seconds" won the Best Song title.

Neneh Chérie Remixes, a remix album of Man songs, was released in 1997.

Blank Project

Main article: Blank Project

Blank Project was written by Cherry and her husband McVey.[3] Paul Simm co-wrote six tracks on the record.[13] The record was deeply influenced by the death of her mother.[14]

To promote the album, she announced a European tour for February and March 2014.[15] In January 2015, Cherry performed as a solo artist in New York City.[16][17] Cherry is very connected to New York, as she has visited or lived there off and on since 1966.[18]


The Cherry Bear Collective, Cherry's former company with McVey, is now called Nomad Productions and is based in west London.[3]


In 2006, Cherry announced the formation of a new band, cirKus. In addition to Cherry, cirKus members were Cameron McVey, Lolita Moon (Neneh and Cameron's daughter Tyson) plus Karmil. CirKus toured Europe, with a single North American performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July 2006 plus a few dates in Brazil in 2008. The band's first album, Laylow, was released in France in 2006. A remixed/recorded version was released in 2007. A second CirKus album, Medicine, was released in France in March 2009.

The Cherry Thing

In March 2011, Cherry collaborated with the experimental jazz group The Thing, to release the record The Cherry Thing.[19] The Thing is a Norwegian/Swedish jazz trio, consisting of Mats Gustafsson (saxophones), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (double bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). The Thing took their name from the third track on stepfather Don Cherry's album, Where Is Brooklyn?.[4][9] The album The Cherry Thing was released in June 2012 and was recorded at Harder Sound Studios in London, England and Atlantis Studios in Stockholm, Sweden.[20]

During a 1 June 2012 interview with Kirsty Lang, broadcast as part of the BBC Radio 4's Front Row daily podcast, Cherry discussed the jazz-inspired album, saying that The Thing were inspired by Cherry's stepfather's work, but that the band makes this inspiration their own. "I think that we're taking it on, to another place. I think that's really important," Cherry said. One of the songs from the album, "Golden Heart," was written by Don Cherry; Christer Bothén, a musician who played with Don Cherry, was invited to play on the album, and brought the song to their attention.

The album includes tracks originally performed by an eclectic mix of artists, including hip-hop artist MF Doom, Martina Topley-Bird[9] Suicide, and The Stooges'.[4] Most of the tracks were recorded together live.[4]

Other music projects

Although Cherry has only released a handful of albums, she has frequently collaborated with other artists.[21]


In 2013, Cherry collaborated with London duo RocketNumberNine (named after a Sun Ra track), aka the Page Brothers, Ben and Tom Page, to record an album MeYouWeYou. She also joined them to perform the entire album live at the Manchester International Festival in July 2013.[22] The record is an album of 10 tracks that Cherry wrote with McVeigh that they brought to RocketNumberNine with only vocals, and then they did their musical interpretation to all the tracks. They recorded the album live in Woodstock, New York with Vortex. The ten tracks were recorded in 5 days. Cherry calls it fearless and hardcore.[23]

Other work

Musical style

Cherry said she has never really thought of herself as a rapper. She sees herself as a "singer that does a bit of rapping."[7]

Breaking into the U.S. music industry was not a positive experience for Cherry. She said that while “Buffalo Stance” gave her a mainstream crossover moment in the U.S. she found the American music industry stiflingly attached to labels and genre identities.[26]


Cherry performing in 2012

Solo records


With CirKus
With The Thing

Other contributions

Personal life

In 1983, Cherry married The Bank drummer Bruce Smith[28] and had a daughter, Naima.[27][29] They divorced in 1984. Cherry's daughter, Naima, is a London-based photographer, who had son Louis Clyde Flynn Love (who goes by Flynn).[30] in 2004.[27]

In 1986, Cherry met producer Cameron "Booga Bear" McVey at Heathrow Airport. Cherry and McVey were en route to Japan as fashion models as part of London designer Ray Petri's Buffalo Posse. Cherry proposed, and the two married in 1990.[31] Cherry and McVey had two daughters: Tyson, born in 1989, and Mabel, born in 1996.[27] Cherry and McVey have a collaborative work relationship: McVey produced and co-wrote Raw Like Sushi. Together they have supported a variety of British acts and they were in the group cirKus together. Via McVey's prior relationship with Vonnie Roudette, Cherry has a stepson, Marlon Roudette, who fronts the British duo Mattafix.

The Cherry-McVeys have lived throughout Europe. In 1993, they moved near Malaga, Spain and lived there until 1999. In 1995, they briefly lived in New York City. They bought a home in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York. Soon after moving in, the couple was held up at gunpoint and robbed by a teenage bandit. The entire family packed up again and headed back to London's Primrose Hill.

They next returned to Cherry's childhood home in Hässleholm, Sweden, living in the same schoolhouse turned home (featured in Homebrew album artwork) in which Cherry was raised as a child.

The family has a country house near Birmingham and Wolverhampton, apartments in London and Stockholm, plus the family home in the old schoolhouse in Skåne County that she and her brother inherited when her mother died in 2009.[5] As of 2014, Cherry says she commutes between London and Stockholm.[5]


Since the late 1980s, Cherry has frequently worked with the stylist and jewelry designer Judy Blame.[32]

On her street style, Cherry cites LL Cool J as an influence, as well as the photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Judy Blame, and designer Ray Petri.[33][34]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography. Mojo Books. p. 176. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  2. Greenstreet, Rosanna (14 June 2014). "Q&A: Neneh Cherry". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Mossman, Kate (22 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry, interview: 'People ask me where I've been for 18 years'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Lang, Kirsty (1 Jun 2012). "Neneh Cherry interviewed; the Transit of Venus in art" (radio podcast). Front Row. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Gehr, Richard (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Talks Her Weird Punk-Pop-Jazz Trajectory, and the New 'Blank Project'". SPIN. Spin Music, a division of SpinMedia. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  6. Jones, Terry; 29 October 2013 (2000). "200 for 2000" (PDF). i-D Magazine. Archived from the original (Issue 200) on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  7. 1 2 Hobbs, Mary Anne. "Neneh Cherry: How I Found My Voice". BBC Radio 6 Music. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  8. Whitfield, Gregory Mario (November 2003). "Gregory Mario Whitfield interviews Tessa Pollitt of The Slits". 3 A.M. Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Rogers, Jude (22 May 2012). "Neneh Cherry: 'Jazz can be the way you make love'". The Guardian.
  10. Vague, Tom (2006). "Counter Culture Portobello Psychogeographical History". Portobello Film Festival.
  11. 1 2 3 Kenner, Rob (18 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Talks "Blank Project," "Buffalo Stance," and Biggie". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  12. " > Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds (chanson)" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  13. 1 2 Bui, Paul (24 February 2014). "life is just a bowl of neneh cherry's". i-D Magazine. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  14. McNulty, Bernadette (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry: welcome return for a unique talent". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  15. "New album Blank Project out 24th February 2014/25th February in the US on Smalltown". SoundCloud. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  16. Coscarelli, Joe (8 January 2015). "Neneh Cherry Will Get an Overdue New York Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  17. Randall, Mac (9 January 2015). "Neneh Cherry Plays Her First-Ever New York Concert Friday". New York Observer. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  18. Spuhler, Robert (6 January 2015). "Neneh Cherry finally plays a New York City solo show". AM New York. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  19. Doran, John (2 May 2012). "A Quietus Interview Keep Those Dreams Burning Forever: Neneh Cherry Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  20. "Neneh Cherry & Thing, The (2) – The Cherry Thing". Discogs. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  21. Gieben, Bram E. (11 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (5 Stars)". The Skinny. Radge Media Limited. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  22. "Neneh Cherry and RocketNumberNine". Manchester International Festival. 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  23. Radcliffe, Mark. "Neneh Cherry Talks To Radcliffe And Maconie". BBC Radio 6 Music. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  24. Grahn, Sindra (20 December 2013). "Österlenmål at Stureplan". Sveriges Television (SVT). Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  25. "Lars Yngve - Nils-Ude...". Trelleborg Municipality. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  26. Zoladz, Lindsay (10 January 2014). "Neneh Cherry". Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media Inc. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  27. 1 2 3 4 Eliezer, Christie (23 June 2004). "Neneh Cherry". Australian Beat Magazine. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  28. "Neneh M Karlsson - mentioned in the record of Smith and Neneh M Karlsson". FamilySearch. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  29. Chapman, Anna (July 2003). "Interview with Neneh Cherry". Pacha Magazine. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  30. Keens, Oliver (25 February 2014). "Five things you didn't know about Neneh Cherry". Time Out London. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  31. "Neneh M Karlsson - mentioned in the record of Mcvey and Neneh M Karlsson". FamilySearch. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  32. Van Meter, William (30 January 2014). "Neneh Cherry's Back On Top". W Magazine. Condé Nast. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  33. Iannacci, Elio (14 February 2014). "What I Wear: Neneh Cherry talks stances and street style". National Post. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  34. Cochrane, Lauren (11 November 2014). "Neneh Cherry's street style hits: 'I looked like the female Muhammad Ali'". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
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