Search

Singing legend Billy Ocean on why the East End still has a special place in his heart

PUBLISHED: 11:54 26 May 2011 | UPDATED: 16:44 26 May 2011

Billy Ocean is to perform at the Rewind festival

Billy Ocean is to perform at the Rewind festival

Archant

Billy Ocean may have made his ascent from the deprived streets of Brick Lane to international stardom but he reckons he’s still an East End boy at heart.

Back on the scene after a 15-year hiatus, the pop and R&B veteran is headlining at the Rewind 1980s festival this summer, and he’s more than happy to reminisce about where it all began.

“The East End is an amazing place, really. I think it’s still a place of opportunity.

“I still come here quite a lot and I’m quite amazed at the transformation. It’s become very up-market and one of the hippest places in London.”

Coming to the area as an eight-year-old boy from Trinidad, Billy spent his childhood and early adulthood around Whitechapel, Brick Lane and Commercial Road.

While it’s well-known that the 61-year-old crooner made his name performing in every club and bar he could get a gig at in the Sixties and Seventies, he was just as familiar with the rag trade east London had become synonymous with, hopping from factory to factory to earn a crust so he could carry on singing.

It was a chance opportunity at one factory, in fact, that led to his break-through hit.

“Due to music, there almost isn’t a factory I never touched. I was never one of these people who thought I’m going to be a musician and I’m going to do nothing else.

“A guy I worked for was kind enough to lend me £32 to buy a piano that one of the machinists was getting rid of. I took it home and a little while after I wrote Love Really Hurts on it.”

And despite the assumption that he takes his name from the Ocean estate in Stepney, the singer says it was in fact a Trinidadian football team from the village he was from which provided the inspiration.

These days he is happy to put the conveyor-belt of writing, recording and promoting on the backburner to concentrate on his real passion – performing live.

He tours with his daughters who provide backing vocals and it is this familiar set-up which suits him best.

“I’ve survived the industry enough to come back again and I’m out here singing with my daughters and I feel a sense of achievement in that – because one of the reasons I did all this was for them.

“All the ego of youth has gone. I’m not going out there selling anything to anyone.

“I’m going out there to relax and give people pleasure and while I’m at it I give myself a tremendous amount of enjoyment.”

Billy Ocean is performing at the Rewind festival in Henley-on-Thames on Saturday August 20.

See rewindfestival.com.

Latest East London Entertainment Stories

Yesterday, 16:04

To listen to LCD Soundsystem through their intricately produced studio recordings, it’s easy to miss the musicianship James Murphy and his crew of unwilling rock stars command.

Yesterday, 07:00

Hundreds of revellers are likely to head to east London for the annual Monday Bank Holiday street festival at the Star of Bethnal Green pub.

Wed, 16:33

Gourmet fads are being tempted with edible ‘mystery mist’ when the famous Urban Food Fest turns up at Canary Wharf next week.

Mon, 14:48

The Star is hosting a bank holiday street party to celebrate a decade since its launch in Bethnal Green Road.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Performances of Baul and Vaishnav medieval and earlier music were staged to packed audiences in Bethnal Green and Poplar ahead of tomorrow’s Bengal festival opening in Mayfair.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The headline acts for the biggest Bengali event outside of south Asia have been announced.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A community festival in Victoria Park will celebrate 100 years of votes for women.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hundreds of pupils got a live performance from one of Britain’s pioneering orchestras when 75 musicians turned up at their school in Bromley-by-Bow.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now