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Opinion & Analysis

#ThinkingAllowed: Hammond, a Gibraltarian music legend

I believe that Albert Hammond is a living legend. There’s no denying the singer/songwriter is an absolute genius. So, is it time we, as a community, more widely recognised his talent?

Is it time we said loud and proud that Albert Hammond is one of the most talented Gibraltarians and one of the best when it comes to music.

Regardless of what you might think of him Albert has penned some of the greatest songs in the world. For more than five decades he has contributed to the history of popular music. His songs play and sound everywhere and for many of us they are the soundtrack to our lives.

But every time the name Albert Hammond comes up in conversation so too does a string of angry comments regarding what he may or may not have said about being from Gibraltar in the past, especially in Spain.

That’s why his concert on the Rock a few years ago was a huge turning point in Gibraltar’s relationship with the singer-songwriter. The two nights were sold out and the audience on both occasions rose to their feet as Albert stepped on stage. Albert was home. It had been long overdue but not even I, always a big fan of his and his music, would have expected that welcome.

There will be those who steered clear and always will of his performances but the reality is that no matter where you are – even if you wanted to escape his music and shut it out you simply wouldn’t be able to.

Even at this year’s National day celebrations politicians and a huge crowd were cheering and flag waving, perhaps quite unwittingly to ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ a song Albert co-wrote with Diane Warren for the group Starship in the 80s and which was nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best original song’ category having featured in the film Mannequin.

A few weeks ago he performed with the Leipzig Symphony Orchestra at London’s Cadogan Hall. Yes, at 73 Albert is still touring and filling up auditoriums across the world.

In Dublin he sold out the 5,000 seater 3Arena. His name may not be instantly recognisable to everyone but when his songs start to play they read like a who’s who in the industry.

I counted at least five standing ovations for him during the show. His fan base is very palpable and noteworthy is that no matter where he performs people can always sing along to his songs.

Just before the show I was sat in a London café with some friends, in one of those rare days when the sun shines and everyone finds a spot in the sun. Albert who? They asked.

All I had to do was mention songs like ‘One Moment In Time’, ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before’, ’99 Miles from LA’, ‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You’. Before the coffees had arrived Albert’s songs were blasting out of their smartphones in admiration.

As Gibraltarians we too should be rightly proud of what he’s achieved.

When Singer Samantha Barks from the Isle of Man appeared on the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything in 2008 (she would go on to star in Les Miserables both on stage and screen) the tourism minister there capitalised on it. They celebrated the success of their own, and visitors were greeted with signs that read ‘Welcome to the Isle of Sam’.

In Gibraltar we don’t even have a street named after Albert and given his fan base stretches around the world wouldn’t that perhaps be beneficial? Fans from LA, Hong Kong, Germany, South Africa came to Gibraltar when he performed here.

Hold on a minute – what about some of his comments in the past? I hear some of you scream as you read this. Etched in your mind may be his description on Maria Teresa’s Spanish TV programme that he was a man of the world – “ciudadano del mundo’.

I too would very much have preferred that he would have said there and then, just like he has in many other interviews, that he had lived in LA, London and Madrid and that they all form an important part of his life but that a big part of his heart is still in his home town of Gibraltar.

In fact this is what his official biography online states clearly. It reads that he was born to Gibraltarian parents and “home country of Gibraltar’.

It’s time to put the past behind us. Yes, Albert could do more to help promote Gibraltar but Gibraltar too needs to embrace what he can do for us.

On the Rock we have been good to celebrate people’s achievements – like Kaiane winning Miss World and Christian Hook taking the art world by storm. It’s right that we do so, but let’s not forget one of the greatest living talented Gibraltarians.

In 2008 he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame but his achievements seem to go widely unrecognised locally.

My strong advice to you is that if you’ve never seen Albert live on stage you should. When I saw him again in London I could not help but feel proud that he too is a Gibraltarian and that he is from Gibraltar. He mentioned it several times over the two hours at the concert.

If the possibility arose again I would very much like to see Albert back in Gibraltar. Hopefully with the symphony orchestra – because that’s a treat on every level.

He hasn’t just written hit songs – he’s written classics.

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