London’s prestigious Music Walk Of Fame finishes a triumphant week of stone unveilings along Camden High Street – a sun filled, weeklong celebration of music in the cultural hub of London. Both have transformed the musical and cultural landscape of this country and beyond, and today the capital has paid its respects by immortalising them on the Camden pavement, a place that still represents the ethos left by both all those years ago.
Founder of The Music Walk of Fame, Lee Bennett, commented: “I am overjoyed to see the Music Walk of Fame and the Camden Music Festival in full flow after our covid hiatus so soon after launching. We really are creating the global home of music and preserving our musical heritage and taking it forward into the future.
To have that array of artists in attendance and family members really does show the kudos of this project and how it is received to the fans, industry, community and the artists themselves. Too many tributes from people to mention that all now know Camden or the Music Walk of Fame, but the highlights being Nile Rodgers, Tyson Fury and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. We also had some great unveilers through the week from Lenny Henry to Suggs, Gwen Dickey from Rose Royce and Carl Barat, to name a few. This is brought to the people from the people. So many people to thank that made it possible from my team, the Council, and the local community which goes to show the warmth for what we do. I look forward to seeing the Music Walk of Fame and the Camden Music Festival grow and grow and grow whilst Camden quite rightly becomes The Global Home of Music.”
On Saturday 9 September, the Camden Music Festival took over the bustling London borough for one day only, bringing the streets alive from Camden Town Tube to Camden Lock. Both the High Street Stage and the Hawley Crescent Stage showcased an eclectic mix of genres, ensuring there was something for every music lover which encapsulated what Camden is all about. From the infectious energy of hip hop icons The Sugarhill Gang to the punk rebellion of Buzzcocks and the mesmerizing beats of local heroes Gordon Mac and Jazzy B, the first edition of the festival proved that music truly knows no boundaries.
Earlier on in the day, Music Walk of Fame welcomed its two final inductees on to the walk: Billy Bragg and Shalamar. Billy Bragg, known and celebrated as both a singer-songwriter and activist, used his musical talents to highlight disparities between communities and the inequalities deeply rooted in society. Beginning in pubs around London, Bragg blended elements of folk and punk rock with lyrics renowned for being politically charged and socially conscious including in ‘A New England’ and ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, Bragg’s music has had a lasting effect on audiences. Using his music as a platform to advocate for change, Bragg highlighted issues including social inequality, workers’ rights, nationalism, war and human rights.
Before unveiling the stone, friend and fellow activist Chris Packham took to the stage, telling the crowds: “I’m a broadcaster and environmental campaigner, fan and friend of Billy Bragg. I’m gonna tell you why it’s a duty, an honour and a privilege to have been asked here today. See, Billy said being a spokesman for a generation is the worst job that he ever had. I’m gonna take umbrage with that for two reasons. Firstly, he’s been so bloody good at it, and I can’t believe that when he’s up there on the stage, singing those lyrics, when everyone in the audience is singing along, that it hasn’t brought him some degree of joy. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, because I don’t think he ever actually had a choice. Anyone who writes “When one voice rules the nation. Just because they’re on top of the pile. Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest. The voices of the people, Are falling on deaf ears. Our politicians all become careerists” He’s not doing that because they’ve set their sights on stardom, fame or riches. They’re doing it because they’re telling their truth. It’s a vocation. He had no choice but to become the voice of so many voiceless.”
Billy Bragg said: “It means a lot to me to be inducted into the Walk of Fame here in Camden because Camden has been such a centre of music…
He added, “It’s always been a place where young musicians have come with their dreams and with their ideas. This is where you bring your hustling. I used to come up here on a Saturday…. There was always a guy selling bootleg cassettes…. And he always looked a bit sheepish when he saw me, because he always invariably had one of my cassettes or several of my cassettes and stuff. And when someone sent me one last week from New Zealand, a guy said “I bought this, thought you might want it” to add, it’s actually Billy Bragg from the 11th Jan 1986: ‘Live at the Camden Diorama’ if you remember the Diorama which was a quite big down by the gates of Regent’s Park. They would have loads of these and they’d always look really sheepish and I’d be like “Mate, it’s cool – you just have to give me a copy or whatever.” And the nice thing also is that his stall was more or less a year in fact that his old cover market used to be… So to have my stone there, it’s really, really touching to find that it’s been put there because there’s something about Camden and something about this strip that’s really, really important.”
American R&B and soul music vocal group Shalamar was at the forefront of the disco and dance movement in the late 1970s. Becoming a staple on dance floors and radio stations around the world through their soulful vocals and catchy hooks. Originally a disco-driven group turned dance trio, the group played a crucial role in popularising dance music during the late 70s and early 80s.
Achieving great chart success with several hit songs, their first being ‘Uptown Festival’, a medley of ten Motown classics dubbed over a 1970s disco track. ‘The Second Time Around’ was their first single off of their second album Big Fun. Going straight to Number One on the soul charts and reaching number eight on the Hot 100 pop chart, it was their highest ranking track on this chart. Interpolated by Missy Elliot in her 2003 album, Shalamar’s tracks have become dance floor classics and are still celebrated for their timeless appeal.
Jeffrey Daniel of Shalmar said: “The UK has always been a welcoming audience to us… You know what you guys are doing here today. I was just gonna say to show appreciation to the UK because you guys have been so amazing to show it. I know it sounds corny, but I know we can all agree that we love you all.”
On Friday 8 September, The Kinks and Buzzcocks were presented with their stones. The Kinks drummer Mike Avory stepped up to the podium to receive their inauguration, saying that, “Thank you Lee for coming up with this idea, and I think it is very deserving to Camden. Even way back in the ‘50s, it was like a music hub, and it’s gone on and on. It’s still got that buzz. I’m very honoured to be here and induct The Kinks into it.”
Both Ray and Dave Davies sent letters of gratitude and appreciation, with Dave saying; “This is the area that Ray and I grew up in, we ran these streets.” While Ray echoed a very similar sentiment, saying; “I remember all too often the wet nights waiting for the 102 to take me home. Wouldn’t change it for the world! Have a great day.”