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Labi Siffre

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Claudius Afolabi 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. His best known compositions include "It Must Be Love" (which was covered by the band Madness), "Crying Laughing Loving Lying", and "(Something Inside) So Strong". His music has been sampled extensively by US hip-hop artists such as Eminem, Kanye West and Jay-Z. Siffre has published essays, the stage and television play Deathwrite and three volumes of poetry: Nigger, Blood on the Page, and Monument.

Early life and education

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 mixed Barbadian and Belgian 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. Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist.

He studied music at the Eric Gilder School of Music in Wardour Street, Soho. Gilder is remembered with gratitude in his poem "education education education". After leaving school, Siffre worked as a taxi driver and a deliveryman before deciding to concentrate on music. He moved to Cannes, France, where he played guitar with various soul musicians and bands but returned to the United Kingdom in the late 1960s.
Musical career

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.

He released six albums between 1970 and 1975. In the early 1970s, three of his singles 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). 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. He wrote "(Something Inside) So Strong" (No. 4, 1987) and released four more albums between 1988 and 1998.

Multiple parts of Siffre's 1975 track "I Got The..." were sampled in popular hip hop 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.

Siffre's 1972 Song "My Song", the tenth track on his junior album Crying Laughing Loving Lying, was sampled by Kanye West on the song "I Wonder" off his 3rd album Graduation.
Personal life

Siffre met his partner Peter Lloyd in July 1964 and they were together for 48 years. They entered into a civil partnership in 2005, as soon as this was possible in the UK. From the mid-1990s until Lloyd's death in 2013 he and Siffre lived in a ménage à trois with Rudolf van Baardwijk in South Wales. Van Baardwijk himself died in 2015. Siffre now lives in Spain.

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.