Hammond, a star still rising at 75

in Culture Insight

How many famous people do you know whose life journey has been blessed with success through hard work and good fortune but they simply don’t want to retire because they seem to have found their calling? Not too many I bet. But I do know one who just fits that description and he’s very famous and very passionate – but he is getting on and in a rare heart to heart he agreed to share his philosophy.

His name is Albert Hammond and he is a local universal legend who has touched the hearts of many millions through his wonderful music. Read on and enjoy a success story that is still unfolding even after most of us have retired at sixty thinking that perhaps we had done enough.

“I’m not 30 anymore, I just turned 75. I’m still as motivated as ever, still always moving and full of energy just like the universe. You see as I journeyed through my life I realized I was not into being famous or making tons of money, I knew that would all come with success, but it would only satisfy my ego and not my spirit, and what is fame?” He pauses here to reflect for a moment: “Think of all the famous bad guys from the beginning of human existence. Then think that after all, life goes by like the blink of an eye and then you die – so for me it was always about something else.” Fame has not really changed Albert Hammond, he is still humble, creative and restless, always looking for new ideas for new songs which he knows may never get published (he records them into his two phones) but he is still searching and still open to learning.

“I grew up in the times of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the Dali Lama and I read the teachings of Buddha, Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet and even read a little of Rumi. These were my spiritual heroes and they didn’t care about being famous, they cared about humanity and the world, their goal

was to help society through goodness, through kindness with love, compassion and empathy and being conscious. I wanted even in a tiny way to live that mystical journey, to be a small part of that spiritual world.”

The memories linger and come back vividly. “I remember my mother telling me a story that while pregnant with me in London she would encounter an image, more so a spiritual energy, every night outside the window of the 8th floor of the building she lived in, and she told me that one night she felt it come to her womb and never saw it again, so I’ve always believed this to be the explanation of why I found my love for music.” That enduring love is not unlike the strong bond which beckons to him to come back here to visit his mum regularly.

“She’s over 99 years of age and is now at the John Mackintosh Home, but a few weeks ago when I went to see her and asked her to tell me about those times during the war in 1944, she still tells me that same story.” Albert was born in the UK during the evacuation years but that graphic story that his mother tells him is very present in his mind. “It’s really amazing to me and I have never forgotten that. I lived in Shakery’s Passage until the age of seven and always knew that music would be my life and my afterlife. My life because I did it whilst living and my afterlife  because my music, my energy and my spirit will  live on after I’m gone.“ That last statement is sobering but so true, you only have to think of the musical legacy of many great composers and it seems that they are still here with us.

“I learnt many spiritual and mystical lessons whilst growing up and going through my journey, some good and some not so good, but the most important one was humility, staying humble and true to yourself, knowing that what you did as a singer songwriter changed peoples’ lives for the better, it helped those in pain and those who had terminal diseases, it brought people together and in my case because I grew up on the Rock, which is also a privilege, because of that I was able to do it for two cultures. The Anglo and the Latin and I can now say that was and is still my purpose.”

There it is – that explains his calling. He doesn’t do it for himself, although he has to feed his ego and to be able to enjoy what he does in his concerts he has to be secure and happy in himself and always give 100% – which explains why his peers have finally invited him to play at the biggest green field music festival in the world – Glastonbury.

“So now we go to Glastonbury and yes of course I’m excited and it’s a wonderful achievement, very fulfilling and it’s a wonderful stage to play where all the greats have left their fingerprints. It’s just as incredible as being responsible for the sale of over 300,000,000 records, or The Hall of Fame or The Emmy, The Ivor Novello nomination to the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Grammys, even the OBE and yes of course now finally – the biggest Rock Festival – Glastonbury and am I excited?  Yes of course I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t, but at the end of your life all will be forgotten. Every now and then someone will mention your name, maybe on your birthday. But my music will live on, and no one can ever take that away. That’s why I’m here, that is my purpose in life.”

Hammond will play at the iconic Glastonbury, a musical milestone reserved for legends, on Sunday June 30. He will play the sub headliner spot on the Acoustic Stage (40,000 capacity arena) and will precede American Country Rock artist Rickie Lee Jones who tops the bill, but his catalogue eclipses most contemporary songwriters.

 “At the ripe old age of 75 I’m invited to play Glastonbury, the largest green field music festival in the world. Wow, how exciting is that and even more so because I’m from Gibraltar”. This milestone concert in Hammond’s illustrious career celebrates him as a song writer with a career spanning over five decades of hits and importantly as an artist in his own right. Although he would have known that his name was on the cards for Glastonbury the reality is a sobering thought. “Who would have thought some kid from Gibraltar was ever going to play Glastonbury?”

“Sometimes I think back to my childhood days on the Rock which were wonderful and that dream that was always in me and still is. Now I know my purpose in life and that is to touch people with my music”

It’s a well-known fact that he’s  touched the hearts of 300,000,000 people with his songs that have been sung by top artists like Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Starship Trooper, The Hollies, Julio Iglesias, Willie Nelson, Leo Sayer and many others in the Latin markets.

“I’ve had an incredible career both as a songwriter and a performer and I’ve accepted many awards and nominations, but to be invited to play Glastonbury has to be one of my highlights”. Albert Hammond is now at a stage of his touring career that has regularly seen him play many major cities and summer festivals over the last five years, but the thrill of playing Glastonbury this year has crowned his recent 75th birthday celebrations. “It is one the most iconic festivals in the world and so many incredible artists have performed there, like David Bowie, The Who, Radiohead, Cold Play and  Adele, just to name a few, so for me it’s another milestone in my career and what an exciting one it is”.

I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of asking him how he would pick the set list from his vast catalogue of hits. “One of the problems I have is what songs do I leave out, as you well know I was given an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Outstanding Song Catalogue’ a few years ago, so choosing the Glastonbury repertoire will not be easy because there are songs that I can’t leave out like ‘It Never Rains In Southern California’, ‘Free Electric Band’,’ The Air That I Breathe’, ‘When I Need You’, ‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ and ‘One Moment In Time’, to name but a few”.  Well Hammond’s star is in the ascendancy as all these things unfold, and there are plans to release a new album and for a US tour all lined up for next year. “Last year I played ‘Proms in the Park’ at Hyde Park and now this year ‘Glastonbury’, so if you ask me how I feel, I feel really grateful.”

It will remain one of the unfortunate conundrums of our life and times if we as his community miss out and don’t welcome back this national treasure, who keeps making so many people feel good with his wonderful music and give him the ‘home concert’ he so richly deserves. A concert with all the stops pulled out and all tickets selling out in the new stadium, because that is what should happen before he decides to stop touring. As the US is seeing him tour next year, I wonder whether that will finally be the clincher to spring our movers and shakers into action and claim a date for Gibraltar in Albert Hammond’s diary. That will be one for the history books in which we can all share.


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