Tuesday

Edwyn Collins: The man with a magical voice


Edwyn Collins. Pic credit: julia dresch via flickr
I had the good fortune of speaking with Edwyn Collins when I was freelancing with the London-based online newspaper The Positive. In my teens, I must have listened to his song A girl like you more than hundred times if not less, and even today, I listen to this song when I feel like moving to the music. So when I got the opportunity, I lapped it up. This is the article that I wrote for The Positive... have a read, share your views...

Listen to Edwyn Collins speak and the first thing that you will notice about him is his laugh. The free flowing, distinctive and hearty laugh. It is this laughter, and the will to keep going, that has made 54-year-old singer Edwyn Collins the man that he is today.
Edwyn first found fame as a 20-year-old with the short-lived Glasgow band, Orange Juice, in 1979. As a solo artist, he went on to achieve worldwide fame with the hit single A Girl like You from his album Gorgeous George. However, musical success is only one aspect of this Scottish alternative rock musician’s remarkable story.

In 2005 he had two cerebral hemorrhages that paralyzed his right side and rendered him to a limited vocabulary of words such as yes, Grace Maxwell (his wife’s name) and, an interesting phrase, “the possibilities are endless”. Those two massive strokes left him unable to walk, talk, or read let alone play the guitar and sing. However, with the endless support of his wife Grace, within two years of the stroke, Edwyn had begun relearning to speak and sing, and released the first of his post-recovery albums – with songs he had written before the hemorrhages.
As the stroke had rendered Edwyn wholly incapacitated to writing, singing, and performing, Grace used this opportunity to make her husband relearn everything, right down to relearning all his lyrics. What is interesting here is to note how the two kept each other motivated. Both Edwyn and Grace say that it was their attitude and the belief that things will get better. “You might think that this would have been unbearable, coupled with the fact he was unable to play guitar any more. However, we saw it always as regaining things. Even in the darkest times when he was so incapacitated, every day I would get glimmers of Edwyn coming through. I had the sense that Edwyn trusted me to get on with things,” Grace said. To this Edwyn adds, “There’s a 1% chance of surviving something like this, so I suppose I am very lucky. So what? I had my stroke, nevertheless, I’m over that stage.”

Embracing his second life as God’s gift, Edwyn looks at his stroke as something that has made him a better songwriter and musician. He says, “Before my stroke I was writing slowly; after my stroke, I’m writing furiously. I’m fast and furious these days. I want to crack on with things. I feel that I must do that. I am more aware of my mortality.”

Indeed, the possibilities are endless for Edwyn, who has, after his recovery, released three music albums, produced and starred in the Channel 4 sitcom, West Heath Yard and released his first book of illustrations.

Now Edwyn is all set to debut as a movie star in a documentary that tells the story of his incredible journey to recovery in his own words. Titled The Possibilities Are Endless, the documentary is directed by Edward Lovelace and James Hall, who helmed Katy Perry: Part Of Me. 

The director duo said they were inspired to undertake the project three years ago after listening to Losing Sleep, the album released by Collins in 2010, which was the first new material following his stroke. Lovelace said, “It seemed like it was coming from a different place – we were intrigued to see what had happened and how he might have changed.” “We wanted the film to be Edwyn’s chance to speak totally freely at his own pace. Though the music is essential in the film – it is more than just a music film. It is a triumph against the odds,” Hall added.

Which other musician has inspired you? Or whose motivational life story would you like to see as a motion picture?  Share your views...