Remembering Diane Charlemagne

Diane died yesterday &, like hundreds of other people, I can’t help but feel incredibly sad about it.

We met at a project where she was working as a security guard. Immediately she was the person that everyone knew, the one who sorted out problems and gave out hugs indiscriminately. She had a huge warm heart and smile, a giant hearty laugh and a biting sense of humour that didn’t suffer fools. I remember her especially as being someone who was always ready to fight for the rights of the people she worked with or who worked under her – those who were weaker or more vulnerable.

It was only after a couple of weeks we found out about her secret double identity as a famous singer. It was a shock to discover her as someone so celebrated, whose songs I knew, had sung along to, whose music videos I’d SEEN, was working as one of US, not living in a mansion making music & drinking champagne. It didn’t make sense.

She admitted XFactor kept pestering her to go on the show, saying they’d put her thought to the final round and pay her for it too, but she wasn’t interested. She loved to sing, but didn’t love fame or the music industry, who’d screwed her over again and again. She was a tough urban cookie – fiercely loyal and adamantly fair – and refused to play a game where those in charge exploited the artists for their own ends and spat them out the other side – for one of her most famous tracks ‘The Key, The Secret’ she hardly saw any of the revenue.

Diane was a real character – a unique talent and caring old wise soul. I’m so glad I met her, she gave me a lot of encouragement to do what I’m doing at a time when I needed it, and she showed me that you shouldn’t just expect to be treated badly, you had to fight to get what you deserved.

This is one of my favourite videos of her performing, if only I’d liked Moby at the time I might’ve seen it live, but how was I to know he was performing with such a f**king superstar? Maybe he didn’t realise it either, she only got paid £67.50 to do the gig, if I remember rightly…

I made this video of Diane singing at the wrap party to that first project we worked on together – the camera’s so shaky at the beginning it’s almost impossible to watch, but I think I kept it in because of what she says, which is bolshy and sweet at the same time: as always she was unashamedly herself.

Rest in peace, Diane, we will miss you x


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