Vintage Gold: Labi Siffre — The Underrated Poet who Pens Poignant Sentiments On Civil and Social Rights

Labi Siffre

With a career that spans over half a century, musician and singer/songwriter Labi Siffre remains relatively unknown to many music fans despite his vast influences in the music industry.

Born in London, Siffre’s talent as a musician led him to play in prominent New York City Jazz clubs in the 60s and 70s (both on his own and as a backing musician) to being covered by country musicians and then being sampled decades later by Hip Hop heavyweights (if you were floored by Eminem’s breakthrough single “My Name Is” then you have Siffre’s song “I Got the … ” to thank for that funky little piano hook), Siffre has quietly shaped the world of music without ever really setting out to do so.

Beyond his capacity as an artist’s artist, Siffre’s music is powerful and poignant on an intrinsically human level thanks in part to Siffre’s commitment to base his work on a strong, personal ethos and social obligation.

As a gay, Black, athiest man who started his career writing songs about race and sexuality in the 70s, Siffre has endured many changes in society.

As an activist, Siffre has never hesitated to use his music to bring attention to man’s folly or shed light on moments that reflect the innate, natural beauty of humanity. Though he shortly retired after releasing just a handful of albums, he was moved to write new music in the 80s and come out of his self imposed retirement after watching a television film from Apartheid South Africa where a white soldier is shown shooting black children.

Written by Siffre as a a reaction to apartheid and racial injustice, Kenny Rogers covered “Something Inside So Strong” just two years after Siffre’s original was released.

In addition to his music, Siffre has written essays, published books of poetry and continues to voice his opinion on current social affairs and politics — his 3 volumes of poetry focuses on racial injustice while his single, “Love Is Love Is Love (Why Isn’t Love Enough),” released just a few weeks ago, chronicles the struggle of LGBTQ individuals whose lives have been threatened and relationships belittled and delegitimized by society and religion for centuries.

With words that act as a muse to the intellectual soul and melodies that blend genres into a smooth stream of consciousness, Siffre’s music evokes a deep twinge in the heart of his listeners. From beautifully orchestrated and lavishly full singles, to short, stripped down bursts of sentimental perfection, Siffre conquers tropes, exposes love and speaks plainly to his audience so that they can absorb all the tantalizing subtleties of his work.

For more on Siffre, make sure to follow him on social media or visit his website.

Words: Patricia Sanchez

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