English singer and songwriter Bryan Ferry CBE was born 26 September 1945 in Washington, County Durham, England. He attended Washington Grammar-Technical School (Washington School) on Spout Lane from 1957 and As a child he had a job as a paperboy. From 1964 until 1968 He studied fine art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne under Richard Hamilton for one year. His contemporaries included Tim Head and Nick de Ville. Ferry was also a member of the bands The Banshees, City Blues, and The Gas Board, the latter of which featured Graham Simpson and John Porter. He then moved to London in 1968 and taught art and pottery at a school in Olympia, while pursuing a career in music.
Ferry came to prominence as the lead vocalist and principal songwriter with the glam art rock band Roxy Music, which he formed in November 1970 with a group of friends and acquaintances, beginning with Graham Simpson. The line-up expanded to include saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay and his acquaintance Brian Eno, who owned tape recorders and played Mackay’s synthesiser. Other early members included timpanist Dexter Lloyd and ex-Nice guitarist David O’List, who were replaced respectively by Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera before the band recorded its first album (early Peel Sessions for the UK’s BBC Radio 1 feature O’List’s playing). Roxy Music achieved three number one albums and ten top ten singles in the UK between 1972 and 1982. Their singles included “Virginia Plain”, “Street Life”, “Love is the Drug”, “Dance Away”, “Angel Eyes”, “Over You”, “Oh Yeah”, “Jealous Guy” and “More Than This”. Ferry began his solo career in 1973. His solo hits included “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, “Let’s Stick Together” and “This Is Tomorrow”.
After lengthy tours to promote the Avalon album, Ferry decided to disband Roxy Music in 1983 and continue as a solo artist. He released Boys and Girls, his sixth solo album, in 1985. The album reached no. 1 in the UK, his first and only solo recording to do so, and also became his biggest selling album in the US Ferry released further singles such as “Slave to Love” and “Don’t Stop the Dance”. In July 1985, Ferry performed at the London Live Aid show, accompanied by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. As with other successful Live Aid acts, his then current album Boys and Girls remained in the UK chart for almost a year.
After the Avalon promotional tours, Ferry was rather reluctant to return to live touring on the road; however, a change of management persuaded him to resume touring in 1988 to promote the previous year’s Bête Noire. Following the tour, Ferry teamed again with Brian Eno for Mamouna (collaborating with Robin Trower on guitar and as producer). The album took more than five years to produce, and was created under the working title Horoscope. During production, Ferry simultaneously recorded and released Taxi in 1993, which proved to be a greater commercial and critical success than Mamouna when it was finally released in 1994. In 1996, Ferry performed the song “Dance with Life” for the Phenomenon soundtrack, written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page.
In 2001 Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson re-reformed Roxy Music and toured extensively for a couple of years, though the band did not record any new material. In 2002, with the help of Manzanera and Thompson, Ferry returned with his next studio album Frantic, which featured several tracks written with David A. Stewart as well as a collaboration with Brian Eno. The album was a mix of new original material and covers – something that Ferry had not attempted on a solo album since The Bride Stripped Bare in 1978. In 2003 Ferry provided the entertainment for the Miss World contest. In 2004, he starred in the short film The Porter. In 2005, it was confirmed that Roxy Music (Ferry, Mackay, Manzanera and Thompson) would perform shows at that year’s Isle of Wight festival and that they would record an album of new and original songs. Thanks to his sartorial elegance Ferry signed a contract with the British retailer Marks & Spencer to model its “Autograph” men’s clothing range.
In March 2007, Ferry released the album Dylanesque, an album of Bob Dylan songs with backing vocals from Tara McDonald and Anna McDonald and was also honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards.In 2009, Ferry provided vocals on DJ Hell’s record U Can Dance. The original version of the track was recorded for Ferry’s new studio album Olympia, released in October 2010. The album included some of the material he recorded with his former Roxy Music band members, and featured musicians such as Nile Rodgers, David A. Stewart, Scissor Sisters, Groove Armada, Michael “Flea” Balzary, Jonny Greenwood and David Gilmour. The model Kate Moss was featured on the album cover. Ferry also provided vocals for the song “Shameless” on Groove Armada’s 2010 album Black Light which was later nominated For Best Electronic/Dance Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. In 2011 Roxy Music performed together for the last time to date as Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay embarked on a world tour to celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary.
In June 2011, Ferry was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his contribution to the British music industry, and in 2012 he was awarded the French national honour of Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2014, Ferry was made an honorary Doctor of Music by Newcastle University. Ferry released a new album in 2012, entitled The Jazz Age with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. The album features 1920s period jazz renditions of some of Ferry’s songs (from both his solo discography and with Roxy Music). Film director Baz Luhrmann asked to use Ferry’s song “Love Is the Drug” from The Jazz Age album for the 2013 film The Great Gatsby. This resulted in a collaboration with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra to create several jazz pieces throughout the movie, released as a separate album titled The Great Gatsby – The Jazz Recordings (A Selection of Yellow Cocktail Music). Ferry began touring with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra in 2013, including a performance at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival which was opened by Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby film.
In 2014, Ferry toured extensively, with notable performances including Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as an appearance at the Chicago Theatre which was preceded by a talk with author Michael Bracewell at the Museum of Contemporary Art on the subjects of fame and his creative inspiration. Ferry also collaborated with the Norwegian DJ/producer Todd Terje, providing vocals on a cover version of “Johnny and Mary” (originally recorded by Robert Palmer). The track was released as a single and appeared on Terje’s album It’s Album Time. In June 2014, Ferry appeared at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival, and in 2015 Ferry returned to Coachella to perform as a guest artist with Terje. In November 2014, Ferry released a new album entitled Avonmore, featuring original material and two cover songs (including the aforementioned “Johnny and Mary” with Todd Terje). To support the album, Ferry launched a 20-date tour across the UK and released his first-ever solo live album, Live 2015. Ferry has continued to tour Europe and North America in the three years since the album’s release, consistently playing no fewer than 30 shows each year.
In 2017, Ferry gave his debut performance at the Hollywood Bowl, backed by the venue’s full orchestra. Ferry is due to make a second appearance with the long-running concert series Night of the Proms in 2018 along with The Pointer Sisters, Milow, and Tim Bendzko. Ferry has also collaborated with previous members of Roxy Music, including backing singer Fonzi Thornton and guitarist Neil Hubbard. Both Thornton and Hubbard toured with Ferry extensively during his promotion of the Avonmore album in 2015 and 2016. In February 2018, a 45th anniversary deluxe edition of Roxy Music’s eponymous debut album was released, including numerous demos, outtakes, and unseen photographs curated over the years by Ferry. During his promotional tour to support the deluxe re-issue, Ferry said he was open to collaborating once again with Roxy Music keyboardist Brian Eno.
Bryan Ferry’s voice has been described as an “elegant, seductive croon”. He also established a distinctive image and sartorial style; according to The Independent, Ferry and his contemporary David Bowie influenced a generation with both their music and their appearance. As well as being a prolific songwriter himself, Ferry has also gained attention for his many cover versions of other artists’ songs and for his re-working of standards, especially from the Great American Songbook, in albums such as These Foolish Things (1973), Another Time, Another Place (1974) and As Time Goes By (1999). When his sales as a solo artist and as a member of Roxy Music are combined, Ferry has sold over 30 million albums worldwide.