Neneh Cherry: ‘I love being a grandma’

The singer, 54, on her breakthrough, her breakdown, and the guy who stole her Grammy

Porridge helps my brain work. I used to be force-fed it by my mother and I thought: “This is the most boring breakfast in the world. Who wants to eat this stuff?” But there’s no doubt it sets you straight for the day. It’s like a little warm caress in the belly.

As you get older, loss becomes such a big part of life. I lost [stylist] Judy Blame, one of my closest friends, early last year. He was a living legend. But after Judy died I thought, I need to take care of myself.

Your blood is beautiful. I went to see a blood doctor in Ibiza who analyses your blood microscopically. You watch it on a screen. It looked incredible, all these blue blood cells.

I had two incidents that manifested as breakdowns. I was disconnected with what was happening to me hormonally, and how it was affecting me psychologically. I thought I was going crazy. My counsellor said: “You are aware you’re in your menopause?” I was going through this departure from being a fertile woman to this other space where my kids were leaving home. It left me confused and empty.

Losing your parents is a pretty surreal thing. My father’s only been gone a couple of months, but he had Alzheimer’s, so in a way he was gone before he died. It’s taken me years to find a more spiritual edge to my mother not being around – to feel her presence in me. I feel privileged to have, for instance, my heritage, growing up with an African, European and American mix.

I love being a grandma. I’m called “mormor”, the Swedish word for grandma. The other day we went to visit my mormor in Stockholm, my mum’s mum, who’s 95. Four generations of us were there. She has dementia, so it was difficult trying to explain whose mormor was who.

Finding myself a pop star [with Buffalo Stance in 1988] was a shock. You’re now part of a public awareness. But we just got on with it. I know that sounds a bit drab, but that was the truth. I had my tribe, and we just ran with it. We thought, let’s do this as long as it lasts.

Tyson is the most famous bump in pop [Cherry’s daughter, with whom she was pregnant when she appeared on Top of the Pops]. A little legend.

On Portobello Road recently a guy came up and said, “Hi, remember me?” I told the person I was with: “That was the guy who stole my Grammy.” It was Milli Vanilli – they won it fraudulently, so I might go and try and get it back.

Cam [McVey] and I have been married for 28 years. We’re partners, companions, lovers. When we met, it felt like we’d been looking for each other. As much as we drive each other crazy sometimes, that click makes for something really great.

Broken Politics is out now. Neneh Cherry plays Leeds University Union (12 February), Manchester Albert Hall (13 February) and London Roundhouse (14 February)


Craig McLean

The GuardianTramp

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