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Our Elkie's a singer who still stands up

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: June 06, 2009

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ELKIE Brooks is busy. She likes it that way, and has no intention of slowing down. This month she is appearing in the beautiful gardens at RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington – the second venue in a national tour launched this weekend at Lichfield.

She enjoys performing – only now, instead of undertaking 60 to 70 dates back to back, she spreads the gigs throughout the year. "My band like it like that and so do I," she says.

A vivacious 64-year-old, her stage presence still has the power to rock.

"I eat well and I get as much rest as I can and I take exercise. That's all you can do," she says about her basic fitness regime. "I don't sit down very much. I'm always doing something."

Added to her list of activities is martial arts. She achieved her First Dan level, the equivalent of a black belt, on her 50th birthday. "Next year I hope to edge forward," she says.

The way ahead leads to a Second Dan level, but Elkie says it isn't about the belt, it is about a sense of achievement.

"You feel you are still scratching the surface – there is always something to learn."

Her 20th studio album, on which she has been working over the past four years with her eldest son, has just been completed.

It is, she says, full of "strong songs", some that have been heard before and some that have been written with her son.

"Many years ago I was persuaded to do a lot of songs I wasn't particularly keen on. Don't Cry Out Loud was one of them – but over the years I have got to like it!"

Elkie listened to great performers and gradually found her own style. Her brother gave her her first LP when she was 12 – an album by Ella Fitzgerald.

She sums her music up as soulful: "What I call R and B, not what they call it today. I'm a serious singer who puts everything into the songs."

The compositions are strong, the subject matter dealing with emotions, delivered in a voice that can convey both the pain and a sense of triumph over adversity.

"We have all been through this and that. I have had my fair share, but many years ago," says Elkie.

Despite multi-million-selling albums there were financial difficulties because the royalties did not always come her way.

"Someone is sailing the Mediterranean with my money but you have to move on," she says.

"It is very easy to be negative about all sorts of things. But I have so much to do that I don't have time to get depressed."

Elkie's musical successes would make the back catalogue of some performers seem pamphlet-thin. The hits are legendary – earning her a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most charted female artist in the past 25 years. The first of a list of massive hit singles came in 1977 with Pearl's A Singer and Sunshine After the Rain.

In the early Seventies she was a member of the now legendary Vinegar Joe, which also featured a young Robert Palmer – a band with a reputation for drink and drug-fuelled performances.

"You can be a bit wild when you are in your twenties," she says. "1I like to think these days I have some class. I'm still rocking up there, but with class."

On stage Elkie tends to go for the sophisticated- looking dress that reaches "just below the knee".

"When you are over 50 you don't want to be seen in a miniskirt. A lot of women agree. Tina Turner doesn't – but she is Tina Turner!"

Her Rosemoor Garden concerts will feature a combination of those iconic hits, new material from the forthcoming album and some old rock favourites.

"I always give it 100 per cent. I do my show in two parts so that people can go to the bar and go to the loo and everyone should be happy."

Elkie Brooks performs at RHS Rosemoor Garden Festival on June 12 and 13. Box office: 01805 624624.

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