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Musician Labi Siffre reflects on racism and homophobia

British musician Labi Siffre has reflected on his experiences of racism and homophobia in a rare interview with The Big Issue.

Siffre released a string of popular albums in the 1970’s before taking a break from music, he’s returned periodically to share more music, but his work is best known from when other artists cover or sample his times.

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Among his well-known songs are It Must Be Love, which was a hit for Madness, while his 1975 song I Got The forms the basis of Eminem’s My Name Is.

Fatboy Slim has also sampled the artist, and Siffre’s 1972 tune Crying Laughing Loving recently featured in the film The Holdovers.

In 1987 Siffre returned to the music world with (Something Inside) So Strong, a song that reflected on apartheid in South Africa. It became a subtle anthem for inequality and injustice.

Labi Siffre performs (Something Inside) So Strong on Later with Jools Holland.

Speaking to The Big Issue Siffre said being homosexual had been a much bigger challenge than being Black.

“I have had far more difficulties in my life due to being a homosexual than being Black. And I conclude that your sexuality is who and what you are. And your colour is what other people say you are.

“If you are Black, you have to put up with the ignorance and arrogance of people who aren’t Black. If you are a homosexual, you must put up with the ignorance and arrogance of white people, blue people, green people, adult people, children who have been taught very early – just about every group of people.” Siffre said.

In the interview the musician also spoke about finding love with his husband Peter, who he met in 1964. The couple were together until Peter’s death in 2013. The last years of Peter’s life saw Labi fulfilling the role of being his fulltime caregiver.

In 1997 the couple met another man Ruud, and they lived together in a ‘throuple’ relationship. In 2016 Ruud also passed away.

Siffre has never been one to clamour for the spotlight, his focus is on writing good songs that are useful to people.

Read his interview with The Big Issue.  

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