I am excited to present to you this interview with singer Marcia Barrett from the world famous band Boney M. She was part of the band from their beginning in 1975 – until a messy brake up in 1989. She just released her Memoir about life before, during and after Boney M. I hope you will enjoy this personal and highly inspirational interview, as much as I did.
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N: First I would like to say thank you for letting me interview you.
M: Thank you for the interest.
N: I would like to get a few facts straight from the beginning so my readers know who you are. You are Miss Marcia Barrett.
M: I believe it! (Marcia answers while laughing).
N: And you were born in Jamaica where you lived in poverty and later you became famous as one of the singers in Boney M, which you were a part of from 1975 – 1989.
M: Yeeees. Correct!
N: You became a mother at the age of 16. You are a wife and you survived cancer 5 times.
M: Yes, plus I had operations in between that I did not mention.
N: Wow, yes, cause you just published your book ”Forward” about the time before, during and after Boney M. Correct?
M: Exactly dear. It is about time I get to say what I want to say. It has been put on the backburner for quite some time now. And now it is the right time for me to bring it out.
N: How does it feel to finally have your story out?
M: Oh, wonderful, wonderful, and the reactions I am getting are that everybody likes the book. Some are saying that it is a pity that they have to finish reading it. And all this in one week! (Marcias book had only been out one week at the time of this interview). It is all very very encouraging.
N: Yes, cause your book came out here on the 21st of June, 2018. And where can one buy it?
M: In the UK “Forward” should be out in all the major bookstores and also here in Germany it is out and it is called “Immer Weiter” (You can also buy it online).
N: Is there a specific message you would like to get out to your readers through this book, now that you have a voice through the book?
M: Well, what I would like to say is that I hope some people could get inspired by reading my story. It is a natural story. I was brought up by a single parent, my mother. After 2 years she sent for my sister and myself to come to England and join her. I was 13 then and my sister is 2 years younger than I am. Then we came to Britain and that was a culture shock, but it was lovely (Marcia lets out a small laughter, before she continues) and you know life was rough. We were in 1-room the three of us and there was a kitchen on the ground floor where all tenants in the house could cook their meals. But what I would like to say to the people who say: “well aren’t you a bit embarrassed that you come from a poor Background” and I can answer that I feel entirely the opposite! Because this taught me how strong I had to be from when life starts. Nothing was put on the table for you. You had to go out and get it, work it and make your goals. So this is actually an incentive for people to see that it does not really matter if you were born with nice surroundings or both parents there. It has nothing to do with your character. You have got the will to pursue what you would like out of life and that is exactly what I did. And I had my goals set. And each goal…well it might have taken long, buuut it is better late than never.
N: Does this mean that you new early on that you wanted to be a singer?
M: Well, not at that age before I left Jamaica. But once I came to Britain and I was working in an office and I was working as a junior clerk making 7 pounds per week. I knew it was not my thing … haha.
So, of cource I knew I had some sort of talent with singing, cause with singing in our class my teachers were always telling me to take my voice down a little. And I am getting the lead role in Macbeth playing Macduff. All the photos are in the book. So you saw what I was actually implementing, not verbally, but through body language and what I would love to take part in.
N: Wow, it is beautiful to have such strong goals at such an early age.
M: Yes, and when I got my chance to come to Germany, as a dancer that is, everything is in my book, I also knew that was still not for me. What I really wanted was to stand on stage and belt it out. I want to sing, I want to feel, I want to deliver!
Five years after I came to Germany, where I had been doing two years as a dancer, it turned into me being a singer from Jamaica with different bands and so forth. Then I heard about this producer who wanted to audition a couple of black girls. And I was skeptical cause I was doing quite well and I was not into bands and all that.
But then I went back to England and it was plaguing me. You know? Always going around in my head…this group…maybe you could do it? Then I went back to Germany and I did make that call to my girlfriend who had told me about this situation before. And Farian was still looking for ladies you know. But, he did not really say sing, or who could sing or whatever. Anyway, I went to the audition, which I wrote in the book, and his arranger was there with me at his flat. So we were the three of us. I sang a couple of songs and at the end of it Farian said: “That will do”. So, that was how I entered into Boney M … haha.
I am proud of that today. You know, of the woman I am today. I know the value of setting goals. Living your dream. You have achieved that and then you move for another one. That was my entire life, even through you are thrown off so many times.
N: I guess that that you do not see yourself as a victim, but as a survivor and a fighter?
M: Exactly, exactly dear
N: So it is very much the mindset you carry with you, that shapes who you become?
M: Yes exactly, cause I know what it is to fight. I know what it is now, to drink a glass of champagne after my tea any morning if I want. You know what I mean?
N: Yes you value it more.
M: And I still don’t throw away food. Marcus and I will eat it the next day (Marcus James is Marcia’s Husband). Nothing is thrown away unnecessarily. Cause I always tend to remember, people are there who would like a hot bowl of soup or something like that and if I am taking everything for granted and throwing it away, that is nonsense. That is the way I see life.
N: In your book you also write about how you became a mom at the age of 16. This is very young. How did you cope?
M: Yes yes, this is a different step. I was not sure I was pregnant. I went to school and had my son in the Easter Holiday and had two weeks off from school. I took part in all the sport during our PE classes only except not swimming. Back then we have these corsets on that you hook to your stockings and that was elasicating and I shared nothing. I was still sleeping in the bed with my mother and sister and had to put on my nightdress, right? And my mother did not notice anything. I even went to the doctor who said: “ahhh that is ok, maybe it is your age. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it does not” you know the monthly and my dear, before you know it one Sunday morning I took in. I told my mum: “oh please, I think I am getting a cold cause my stomach is hurting me”. She said: “a cold?”. Anyway, to cut a long story short, within half an hour the ambulance was there. When I knew I was really gonna have a baby, that was when we reached the hospital, which was not in our vicinity. At that time I was registered nowhere and was getting no treatment.
N: No, I guess, cause you had not known before.
M: No, so when the nurse looked at me she said: “Oh it is gonna be a boy”.
N: Oh my and you had no idea you were pregnant, That is absolutely crazy!
M: And I said to myself…a boy…is she talking about a baby? And so I was admitted and then they had to really start working on me. I got blood transfusion and a fatal heartbeat, but I had him three minutes to eight Sunday evening. He was weighing 7 punds.
N: What is that in Kg? I am not so good in pounds…was he a normal size then?
M: Kg? Oh, I could not tell you either, but he was normal and everything on: toes and everything.
N: So you have a son today, who is actually not that much younger than you?
M: Yes, my son now is 52 … haha.
N: Does he still live in England?
M: Yes yes, but we have no contact. I have written everything in the book to explain where I am coming from so people get to know, who I really am. Cause you only see a pop group and you are always smiling you know. But, I am a happy person mind you. And I am a very positive person. So I just want that in sharing my story I am sure that there are other people out there that can really be inspired. Through all the trials and tribulations I am still on my feet.
I was paralyzed once from the waist down to my feet and I taught myself to walk again. Without any wheelchair and without any medicals telling me that: “after that she will help you to heal”. I said “no, I’ll do it”.
I would do sports every morning. My husband and I were living on the outskirts of Palm Beach where I had a beautiful waterfront property built at the time. That was during the early Boney M days. It was just for holidays. You could get flights to Jamaica then, which lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes. So it was near home … haha…
N: A little escape.
M: Yes, exactly. And that was the reason why I built this house.
N: I read in one of your previous interviews, that one thing that got you through all these challenges was also your passion for your music, your love from your family and your love for them and also your religion?
M: Well my dear, nowadays I don’t even want to talk about religion. My religion is my strong faith. It comes from the soul and the heart. You know I don’t have to go to a church to be convinced that there is a God who is looking after you. And my husband is the same. We never go to churches to sing and that, cause you can even get killed in churches nowadays. So, you keep your worship at home, alone. Together you find a lovely spot.
N: Do you think this strong faith in something greater than you, has made it easier for you to see the bigger picture at times?
M: Well of course, cause sometimes it sounds as if there is actually just a voice saying: “Do this my child. Don’t do this my child”. Your inner conscious. And sometimes you just have to read between the lines …about the signs. Like, if something does not work out, you then say: “oh well, there must be a reason why it did not work out.” Not only waiting for it to rejoice. It is beautiful to rejoice but there are times when you are not able to accept the answer of what you are looking for. But still life goes on and you have got to have the will to live! I enjoy life to the full. I enjoy life. I thank God every day and say: “thank you Jesus for this wonderful day”. It could be rainy, it could be sunny or it could be snowy. Even though I am from Jamaica I love all seasons. All seasons I look forward to. As long as I am able to walk, go on stage and entertain the fans. Even if it is just for half and hour or 45 minutes. Don’t forget there are a lot of false Boney M’s out there.
N: Yes, and you are the “real deal”
M: Yes, I am the original voice, a big part of the vocals, the image and everything.
N: And you were also lead singer on several of Boney M’s songs.
M: Yes a couple of leads on what Frank decided to give me. He pulled my voice a little bit more up. But you know, I don’t have to try and paint the picture, cause that is the reality of it. You know, it has been team work.
N: Do you think your faith and ability to see the “bigger picture” in things has helped you get through the brake up of the band back then. I read it was not a very nice experience you went through?
M: Yes, without a doubt. I just followed my voice, my inner voice with regards to what to do.
The abrupt ending of “Boney M” by Farian was not tragic for me but surprising indeed without any discussion. I just said at least I have time to focus on my solo-work now … haha.
N: When did you find out that you were being cheated from all this money (millions!) in Royalties etc from Frank Farian and that you were not getting the money you should have had?
M: That’s a fact. Well, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna spend all your life quarreling in court and all that? I love positive energies.
N: Well many people would probably have gone to court and fought.
M: Yes, and then you don’t have the energy to go out and perform cause it is a fight.
N: And you had already been sick with cancer a few times back then?
M: Well maybe cause I was worried about when I am gonna get back on stage? I think that had a lot to do with it. Even though I was in a fantastic waterfront property (Palm Beach House), it was like a golden cage. I could not get to do my work, my art. That was very frustrating. But I knew I was eventually gonna get better and come back, cause I don’t have to explain who Boney M is. We were not a huge act in USA where we visited for one week only regarding “PR” activities. Straight after that trip we had to fly back to be the first Pop Group who were invited to “Former Soviet Union” – now RUSSIA.
N: Wow, that was a very big thing too. You tried so many things.
M: Yes, haha.
N: You know, many people dream of a life in fame and fortune. Would you say that it does make you a happier person?
M: I must say it is lovely! But, you have to keep a level head.
N: So keep your feet on the ground.
M: Yes, it is not all that is fame and fortune. It is not everything, you see? I am not saying it is not enjoyable, cause it is, but it is not everything! You have to remain with your values and know what you are talking about. Know what you want out of life.
N: And I guess also love what it is you are making your money from, so love what you do for a living?
M: Yes, that is my profession. And later on that will lead you to something else. See, now I am an author and when I am ready, I can write any story. This is my memoir. But then I can imagine putting myself into situation that I can be in with a little acting and writing another story and so forth you see. So it is never ending and it is exciting to move from one phase to another.
N: I read you also do talks for people about surviving cancer right?
M: Well, I have done that before in India and so forth and it could be a bigger engagement now, when I have time that is.
N: That could empower many people.
M: I have been offered a couple of spots but nothing is signed yet, because I am weighing it all out. The book is only just over a week old and from the remarks from journalist and from the fans they are all very pleased.
N: I can’t wait to get my copy of your book!
M: Well you had better get your copy soon….haha! Well I must say though that the English version is laid out better with the photos as they are in color and the German is in black and white.
N: Well I am going for the English version.
M: Well that is good and the way it is presented is very classy.
N: We have talked about passion for what you do when it comes to working and making money. I would like to know if you think it is a problem today that so many people have jobs they are not passionate about? I mean, you are a passionate person and most of us today choose the more stable and “safe” careers instead of just daring to go all in a follow their dreams, which I believe you did?
M: Marcia pauses and says…Yes, but then again not everybody has that…hmm, what do you say now…fortune….are not that fortunate.
First of all, you must not fear a thing! Because guess what. If you fear and reach half way and turn back, then you are really not sure. If you are not sure, then it is best to stay doing what you do at the moment. It needs planning way ahead.
N: I am also asking you this, cause there are so many kids that are troubled about their future. They are so stressed out and afraid to follow their passion, when they choose what to do.
M: Well I am asking myself, why we / our generation or even those after, don’t have all those problems. We were sent to school and took in what we could. Growing up as a child was not a problem. Nowadays everything is so confusing you know. Everything is just a basic route for us to have taken back then. Look at us. We have not turned into serial killers or depressive zombies walking around taking drugs. You know what I am saying? It was really a normal way of life. Kids go to school. Learn learn learn and learn how to be … hmmm… what do you call it…
M: Yes, disciplined. Exactly. There are duties before you go to school and there are duties after you come home from school at home. And it is not that your parents want to punish you. It was for your own good, cause later on you are gonna see. Like nowadays the kids are sitting with their little phones when supper is ready and you go: “helloooo, dinner is ready”. And everybody is locked in their room with all these computers. Oh my God, Thank God I have not got this to deal with … Hahaha.
N: I think that is a very good point. I believe many of the problems come from this artificial online life, you know, you can even create a fake life.
M: Yes, it all got out of hand.
N: I agree and I really hope to see a change.
M: Yeah, you are walking out on the street and people are just bumping into you cause everybody’s heads are down in these gadgets.
N: Yes, and taking pictures of their food at restaurants
M: If they are sitting with their spouse or whoever at the table and dining, there is no conversation at all because everybody has got a gadget in their hand. Oh God, I would say:”Oh I need my freedom from all this”.
N: Yes, it is like you are so busy with your life online that you actually disconnect from the life offline.
M: Yes from the real life. Get to know somebody properly or you know just talk. There must be something to discuss verbally.
N: Yeah I hope so otherwise it is a bit sad.
M: It is very very sad. But that is how its come over nowadays.
N: Well Marcia, I really would like to know, when looking back at your career what is the biggest moment … like a highlight? What it the first thing that comes to mind?
M: Oh I have quite a few you know. That visit to Moscow as the first group from the west that was really something else. And then when we performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd.
N: Oooh, this is a big moment.
M: I mean that is something. That is incredible. Up until this day I can say her majesty shook my hand and spoke to us: “Are you performing here?”. And then of course the biggest of all is when you can still perform, do a show with the same songs globally, and that your fans are still there after 40 years!
N: Yes, you are still active and performing and I bet you will do that until you have to be “carried out of here”.
M: Yes, they will have to carry me. It is a good job …haha… that you can change after you get too old to wiggle your hip…haha… You can just sit by a piano. I enjoy it so much.
N: Do you have some nice jobs lined up with Boney M?
M: Here in Berlin not, but we have done a couple of shows here. But it is globally and can you imagine that! Who comes first gets the job done. I work with different booking agents and if they have something…well they know my terms that I go out with, then I take it. And then you are gone here or you are gone there.
N: I would love to see you in action on stage!
M: Well I will let you know when we have a show in Berlin…haha..
N: That is wonderful. I would like to ask you a final question. Would you do it all again? Looking back, knowing how it all turned out and what you have been through?
M: Yes! I would do it all again … haha. And this time I am hoping to get all the money I worked for. The rewards should be really fair.
N: I must admit that I was quite appalled to read that you got 300DM for a performance in front of 200.000 back then.
M: Oh yes, that was back in those days. Oh my God. Can you imagine! That was because we had no manager.
N: And you just accepted it?
M: Well yes, cause you have no time to even argue …haha.
N: So you just toured?
M: Yes from one venue to the other and then press and all that. It is like saying you can’t have everything at the same time, you know.
N: Yes, and you chose not to go to court, so I guess you will get your reward in heaven?
M: Yes and he (Frank Farian) has got to live with his conscious and mine is clean. Clean and truthful.
N: That is the most important thing and also that you can look yourself in the eyes at night.
M: Exactly! And look in the mirror and glow every morning.
Thank you to Marcia Barrett for taking the time to give us all such a personal insight into her life as a member of Boney M, one of the biggest bands of the 70’s and 80s.
Follow Marcia on Facebook here
Smiles from Berlin,
Other Interviews (only in Danish!)
Månedens Interview i Juni med Kate Hall.
Månedens Interview i Maj med Maj Bjerre
Månedens Interview i April med Ditte Young