46 Facts About Billy Bragg


Stephen William Bragg was born on 20 December 1957, and known as Billy Bragg, is an English musician and left-wing activist.

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Billy Bragg's music is heavily centred on bringing about change and involving the younger generation in activist causes.

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Billy Bragg was born in 1957 in Barking, Essex to Dennis Frederick Austin Billy Bragg, an assistant sales manager to a Barking cap maker and milliner, and his wife Marie Victoria D'Urso, who was of Italian descent.

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Billy Bragg's father died of lung cancer in 1976, and his mother died in 2011.

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Billy Bragg was educated at Northbury Junior School and Park Modern Secondary School in Barking, where he failed his eleven-plus exam, effectively precluding him from going to university.

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Billy Bragg put his energies into learning and practising the guitar with his next-door neighbour, Philip Wigg ; some of their influences were the Faces, Small Faces and the Rolling Stones.

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Billy Bragg was particularly influenced by the Clash, whom he'd seen play live in London in May 1977 on their White Riot Tour, and again at a Rock Against Racism carnival in April 1978, which he admits was the first time he really stepped into the world of music as it is used for political activism.

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Billy Bragg later collaborated with Rosselson on the song "Ballad of a Spycatcher".

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In 1986 Billy Bragg released Talking with the Taxman About Poetry, which became his first Top 10 album.

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Wet Wet Wet's cover dominated radio airplay and its video was shown over three consecutive weeks on Top of the Pops; in week four, Billy Bragg went on the programme to play his cover, with regular accompanist Cara Tivey on piano.

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Billy Bragg released his fourth album, Workers Playtime, in September 1988.

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The album paid tribute to one of Billy Bragg's influences with the song, "I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night", which is an adapted version of Earl Robinson's song, "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night", itself an adaptation of a poem by Alfred Hayes.

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Billy Bragg released the album William Bloke in 1996 after taking time off to help new partner Juliet Wills raise their son Jack.

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Around that time, Nora Guthrie asked Billy Bragg to set some of her father's unrecorded lyrics to music.

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In 2007 Billy Bragg moved closer to his English folk music roots by joining the WOMAD-inspired collective The Imagined Village, who recorded an album of updated versions of traditional English songs and dances and toured through that autumn.

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Also in 2008, Billy Bragg played a small role in Stuart Bamforth's film A13: Road Movie.

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In 2009, Billy Bragg was invited by London's South Bank to write new lyrics for "Ode to Joy", the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, since adopted as an international anthem of unity.

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The London Philharmonic Orchestra performed it at the Royal Festival Hall in front of the Queen and Billy Bragg met her afterwards to earn "brownie points" with his mother, in attendance.

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Billy Bragg was involved in the play Pressure Drop at the Wellcome Collection in London in April and May 2010.

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Billy Bragg performed during the play with his band, and acted as compere.

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Billy Bragg was invited by Michael Eavis to curate the Leftfield stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2010, which he has continued to do in subsequent years.

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Billy Bragg took part in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books, where he wrote a piece based upon a book of the King James Bible.

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Billy Bragg performed a set of the Guthrie songs that he had set to music for Mermaid Avenue during the Hay Literary Festival in June 2012, he performed the same set on the Friday night of the 2012 Cambridge Folk Festival.

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In February 2016, Billy Bragg was given the Trailblazer Award at the inaugural Americana Music Association UK Awards in London.

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The idea was to play three consecutive shows over three nights at each venue: the first night a current, mixed Billy Bragg set; the second from his first three albums; the third from his second three albums.

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All of Billy Bragg's 30-year-plus recording career he has been involved with grassroots, broadly leftist, political movements, and this is often reflected in his lyrics.

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Billy Bragg has recorded and performed cover versions of famous socialist anthems such as "The Internationale" and "The Red Flag".

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Billy Bragg's politics were focused by the Conservative Party's 144-seat majority landslide at the 1983 general election.

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Billy Bragg released an EP during this year titled "Between the Wars", which connected struggles of class solidarity to the present issue.

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Billy Bragg travelled twice to the Soviet Union in 1986, the year Mikhail Gorbachev started to promote the policies of perestroika and glasnost.

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Billy Bragg played a gig in Leningrad, and the Festival of Song in the Struggle for Peace in Kiev.

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On 12 June 1987, the night after Labour lost that year's general election, Billy Bragg appeared on a notable edition of the Channel 4 discussion programme After Dark, alongside David Selbourne, Teresa Gorman and Hilary Hook among others.

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At the time of the 2001 general election, Billy Bragg promoted tactical voting in an attempt to unseat Conservative Party candidates in his adopted home county Dorset, particularly in South Dorset and West Dorset.

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At the NME Awards in 2007, on the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death, Billy Bragg founded Jail Guitar Doors, an organisation aimed at supplying instruments to prisons and encouraging prisoners to address problems in a non-confrontational way.

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Billy Bragg was very active in his hometown of Barking as part of Searchlight magazine's Hope not Hate campaign, where the BNP's leader Nick Griffin was standing for election.

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At one point during the campaign Billy Bragg squared up to BNP London Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook, calling him a "Fascist racist" and saying "when you're gone from this borough, we will rebuild this community".

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Billy Bragg claimed that a BNP supporter was behind the letters, which argued that Bragg is a hypocrite for advocating socialism while living a wealthy lifestyle, and referred to him as anti-British and pro-immigration.

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In July 2011 Billy Bragg joined the growing protests over the News of the World phone hacking affair with the release of his "Never Buy the Sun" single, which references many of the scandal's key points including the Milly Dowler case, police bribes and associated political fallout.

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In October 2011, Billy Bragg joined the Occupy Movement protests in the City of London.

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In 2014, Billy Bragg joined the March in March anti-government protests in Sydney, Australia.

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In June 2014, Billy Bragg joined other musicians in backing a call for the EU to intervene in a dispute between YouTube and independent labels.

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Billy Bragg described the independence campaign as "civic nationalism" and his opinion piece concluded:.

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Billy Bragg was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas at the 2015 general election.

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Billy Bragg voiced his support for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.

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In June 2019, Billy Bragg publicly criticised fellow singer-songwriter Morrissey for his recent political comments and endorsement of a far-right political party, and accused him of dragging the legacy of Johnny Marr and the Smiths "through the dirt".

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In November 2019, Billy Bragg endorsed the Labour Party in the 2019 general election.

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