Josephine Claire Hamill (born 4 August 1954) is a British singer-songwriter. As well as her solo career, she has collaborated with Wishbone Ash and Yes's Steve Howe.
Life and career
Claire Hamill was born in Port Clarence, County Durham. She has been active in the music business since age 17. In 1971, she was launched as one of Britain's first female singer-songwriters and compared by several commentators to Joni Mitchell.
Her debut album was One House Left Standing, whose cover photo showed the singer in a backdrop of her home town. Soon afterwards, she went on her first UK tour supporting John Martyn. She performed at Concert 10 in Long Pond PA in July 1972 before a crowd of 200,000. By 1973, she had toured the United States with Procol Harum and Jethro Tull, and came back to Britain to record her next album October at Richard Branson's Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, the same studio which Mike Oldfield was using to compose what became Tubular Bells. She next toured with King Crimson.
In 1973, she met Ray Davies of the Kinks, who signed her to his Konk label for her third album Stage Door Johnnies, an album which included her first covers. She toured America for the second time that year and went on another UK tour supporting Gilbert O'Sullivan. In addition, she recorded what would be her final album of the '70s and the second one for Konk, Abracadabra.
In the early 1980s she worked with Wishbone Ash, appearing as a guest performer on their albums Just Testing (1980) and Number the Brave (1981) and joining the group for their 1981/82 tour. She returned as a guest on Bare Bones in 1999. In 1979, she provided vocals on the song "Look Over Your Shoulder" on The Steve Howe Album.
Hamill had always been regarded more as an album artist but in 1980 she cut a single called "First Night in New York", which gained favourable reviews. She formed a group, Transporter (which took its name from Tees Transporter Bridge), which released one now-rare single.
In 1981, she appeared on the Jon and Vangelis album The Friends of Mr Cairo and also sang with British jazz/funk/fusion group Morrissey–Mullen, appearing on their Life on the Wire album (1982). In 1983, Hamill recorded a cover of Gene Pitney's "24 Hours from Tulsa", produced by the American musician Richard Niles who would later go on to arrange for many heavyweight names such as Paul McCartney. Another single, "If You Would Only Talk to Me", suffered from a lack of radio exposure.
By the mid '80s, Hamill reinvented herself to embrace New Age music, which gained her a new audience along with commissions from the BBC and Channel 4. Her first album of the 80s, Touchpaper, was followed a year later by the album which pitched her into the realms of true critical acclaim, if not the music charts. The album Voices was all her own work and similar to what would later be recorded by Adiemus and Enya. The label Coda was run by her then-husband Nick Austin and had many different New Age acts recording for it. Her music was used for the 5-part BBC1 series Domesday, broadcast in November and December 1986. Four tracks ("Glastonbury (Jerusalem)", "Tides", "Spring: Awaken Lark Rise" and "Stars") were issued as the Domesday EP on Coda Records.
After the next album, Love in the Afternoon, she cut a version of Pachelbel's Canon in both instrumental and vocal versions, the latter featuring her own words as "Someday We Will All be Together". Both this and the Voices album were used extensively by Channel 4 for a series of music videos collectively titled The Art of Landscape and shown every morning in the early 1990s. The one featuring the instrumental version of Pachelbel's Canon, with scenes of Antarctic penguins was voted by viewers as the favourite.
In 1992, Hamill went to live in Hastings, found a new partner in Andrew Warren, and cut a new album called Summer at the end of the decade. Since then, she has released The Lost & the Lovers and a compilation album. Her song "You Take my Breath Away" from The Lost & the Lovers was later covered by Tuck & Patti on Tears of Joy and that version caught the attention of Eva Cassidy, whose recording of it was used in a movie soundtrack.
In 2009, she supported John Lees' Barclay James Harvest on their UK tour. Since 2013, she has been a member of the Yes tribute band Fragile, in the role of lead vocalist.
- 1971: One House Left Standing
- 1973: October
- 1974: Stage Door Johnnies
- 1975: Abracadabra
- 1984: Touchpaper
- 1986: Voices
- 1988: Love in the Afternoon
- 1997: Summer
- 2004: The Lost & the Lovers
- 2007: The Minor Fall the Major Lift: the Best of Josephine Claire Hamill
- 2015: When Daylight Arrives
- 2019: Over Dark Apples