Dana Gillespie (born Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie, 30 March 1949) is an English actress, singer and songwriter. Originally performing and recording in her teens, over the years Gillespie has been involved in the recording of over 45 albums, and appeared in stage productions, such as Jesus Christ Superstar, and several films. Her musical output has progressed from teen pop and folk in the early part of her career, to rock in the 1970s and, more latterly, the blues.
Gillespie was born in Woking, Surrey, the second daughter of Anne Francis Roden (née Buxton) Winterstein Gillespie (1920–2007) and Hans Henry Winterstein Gillespie (1910–1994), a London-based radiologist of Austrian nobility. Her older sister, Nicola Henrietta St. John Gillespie, was born in 1946. Dana Gillespie was the British Junior Water Skiing Champion in 1962.
She recorded initially in the folk genre in the mid-1960s. Some of her recordings as a teenager fell into the teen pop category, such as her 1965 single "Thank You Boy", written by John Carter and Ken Lewis and produced by Jimmy Page. Her acting career got under way shortly afterwards, and it overshadowed her musical career in the late 1960s and 1970s. After performing backing vocals on the track "It Ain't Easy" from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, she recorded an album produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson in 1973, Weren't Born a Man.
Subsequent recordings have been in the blues genre, appearing with the London Blues Band. She is also notable for being the original Mary Magdalene in the first London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar, which opened at the Palace Theatre in 1972. She also appeared on the Original London Cast album. During the 1980s Gillespie was a member of the Austrian Mojo Blues Band.
While her career in music was simmering away, she became better known for her appearances in London's West End theatres, in shows such as the first run of Jesus Christ Superstar (playing Mary Magdalene), The Who's "Tommy" (playing the Acid Queen) and the rock Othello, "Catch My Soul". She also appeared with Dudley Moore in the film version of "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" and starred in Ken Russell's "Mahler" among other movies.
Dana has already released six blues albums through Ace. BLUE JOB, was recorded in 1982, a collection of blues songs with a humorous risqué twist. The second LP, BELOW THE BELT drew on the same source, and was produced by Mike Vernon (who also produced Dana's Pye album in the 60s, BOX OF SURPRISES). The third LP, SWEET MEAT concentrated on "fat" and "thin" numbers - another raunchy set of songs. The combined three LPs are now available on two CDs BLUES IT UP and HOT STUFF. Her release STAYING POWER, displays an empathy with the blues which can be traced back to her first exposure to the art form in the early 1960s. Her latest CD on Ace is recorded and called 'Live with the London Blues Band'.
In 2002 Dana was invited to take her road band, The London Blues Band, on the first ever major tour by a western band of India. She filled stadiums from Mumbai to Calcutta and yet again demonstrated her infalible ability to take her music to a seemingly unlikely audience. Her songwriting is without doubt a major asset. Bob Dylan has said how much he likes her songs... her self penned catalogue is phenomenal and sets her apart as a truly unique talent. India has always played a major part in Dana's life and she recorded 3 albums in Sanskrit, under the pseudonym THIRD MAN before reverting to Dana Gillespie. Her touring schedule has been consistently packed, taking her to all the European blues festivals. In recognition of her talent, she was voted 'Top British Female Blues Vocalist' by the British Blues Connection and Blueprint Magazine between 1992 and 1996 and has now been elevated into their Hall Of Fame.
In the last week of January, for over 15 years, the Caribbean Island of MUSTIQUE has been the destination for a charity blues festival, founded and organised by Dana and Basil Charles. The festival started as a small event but as Mustique has grown in popularity, as a tourist destination and as a playground for the wealthy, so has the festival. The funds collected are used to pay for scholarships for children's schooling in the neighbouring island of St. Vincent. Dana maintains that the event will continue to be a free festival, raising money through the sale of the Mustique Blues Festival LIVE CD produced every year. Blues musicians from all over the world, such as Big Jay McNeeley, Larry Garner, Joe Louis Walker, Mick Jagger and Ian Siegal.
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