To this day, I get fan mail from India: Boney M’s Liz Mitchell
Liz Mitchell, the lead singer of ’70s and ’80s hit disco band Boney M, was recently in Mumbai for a performance. HT caught up with her over the phone for an interview.music Updated: Nov 30, 2015 18:34 IST
Boney M, the music group featuring Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell, created waves with its music in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Their songs, ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’, ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, and ‘Rasputin’ continue to be on playlists at events and nightclubs even today. But, like many other famous international groups, Boney M disbanded in 1986, and the members of the band started pursuing their individual careers. A court ruling in the 1990s stated that all four members of the group could use the name Boney M. The band performed as the original quartet for the first time in India in the ‘80s. Lead singer Mitchell came back to the country again in the ‘90s and in 2007, with her own line-up. Recently, the singer was in Mumbai for a performance, and HT caught up with her over the phone, just before the show.
How was your first performance in India, with the original quartet?
It was amazing. We’ve had the most-wonderful tours here. We even went out shopping to so many places. We met several Bollywood stars and had dinners with them. I don’t remember their names though.
Are you still as popular as your group used to be back in the day?
From the way I’m received anywhere in the world, it seems to be the same. Wherever we go, people have been kind and responsive to the music. Our work has left a lasting impact on the lives of people. They use our music for healing purposes - whether it’s to celebrate a birthday, a party, a christening, or in memory of their parents who passed away. There are so many stories that I hear about what the music of Boney M stands for in the lives of people.
Listen and watch Boney M sing By the Rivers of Babylon here:
Do people recognise you on the streets?
Yes, they do. I’m always impressed when someone still recognises me.
Do you have younger fans?
We’ve got so many young fans today. I don’t know how it came to be, but there isn’t a university in the world that doesn’t play our songs even today. Young people are listening to our songs, and literally finding the music by themselves. Our music is not being hyped at the moment, like how new music is. I will be surprised if there are no young people at our concerts. In fact, I even get fan mail from India.
Do you think you would have been far more popular if you were still part of the original quartet?
I wouldn’t say so. The original line-up separated in 1986. We got back together in 1988 to do our remix album, and discovered that we had grown apart. I don’t think you can repeat what you did. It’s important to continue on your path. I have done that. I have kept my dignity to the highest-possible level. I think I am happy with my loss.
Watch Boney M sing Brown Girl in the Ring here:
Are you still in touch with the original members of the band?
I spoke to Marcia recently. I think we ought to be able to spend time together. You work for one newspaper for 10 years and then move on, not because you and your colleagues don’t get along, but because life is taking you on a different path. Then you won’t have the time [to meet your former colleagues], because you are in one place and they are in another. But then, when you meet them 10 years down the line, you would be like, “Hey, wow, how are you?”
Have you ever thought of reuniting with them?
There was talk of reuniting, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was a little insecure at the time when it was proposed. Interestingly enough, I realised it was not meant to be. There was a lot of back and forth. Then Bobby (Boney M frontman) died in 2010, and I felt it wasn’t meant to be.
Do you listen to Indian music?
Most of our music was recorded in Germany. At that time, reggae, gospel and soul were my main influences. I got into Indian music in the late ‘80s, as Indians were coming more to England. As we travelled, I got to listen to Indian music. Before that, I didn’t have any knowledge of it. But, since then, I’ve grown to love Indian music.
You are 63. What keeps you going?
I love to entertain. It’s a gift from God. If I can make one person happy, then I feel I have succeeded in doing some good. Many people don’t realise that they are here to give to humanity. All of us are here to do our best to make people happy. That’s what keeps me going.