Popup: Liz Mitchell

Liz Mitchell – Boney M

Liz Mitchell was born in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica. At the age of eleven, Mitchell and her family emigrated to London, England, in 1963. By the end of the decade, she auditioned for Hair and eventually moved to Berlin to join the German cast where she replaced Donna Summer. After Hair, Mitchell joined the Les Humphries Singers for a few years.

A phone call from Katja Wolff agency in February 1976 persuaded Mitchell to return to Germany to join a new group being assembled by record producer Frank Farian which would become known as Boney M. Though the group’s initial purpose was simply to lip-synch for TV and discothèque performances of Farian’s song “Baby Do You Wanna Bump”, Boney M. soon became a legitimate recording group with Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, and producer Farian as the vocal core. Mitchell became widely regarded as Boney M.’s lead vocalist. Farian later stated that “All members (of Boney M.) could be replaced, except Liz”.

Although Boney M was largely a Farian vehicle for his own songwriting, Mitchell is credited as co-composer of the Boney M song, “African Moon”, which appeared on their album, Boonoonoonoos (1981). Though she did not contribute significantly as a songwriter, Mitchell’s vocals are widely regarded as the most distinctive part of the Boney M. sound. Boney M. would disband in 1986

After the group split up shortly after their 10th anniversary in 1986, Farrell convinced Mitchell, Maizie Williams and a replacement for Marcia Barrett to re-group for a tour in 1987. A recording contract for the group was also arranged. When Farrell and the replacement singer failed to show up for the rehearsals, Mitchell and Williams recruited singer Celena Duncan and dancer Curt Dee Daran for the tour. As Williams had never sung on Boney M.’s recordings, Mitchell ended up recording the scheduled album on her own.

However, it proved difficult for Mitchell to find a record label to release the album, entitled No One Will Force You. It was released in Spain in the Autumn of 1988, supported by the singles “Mandela” (a re-work of Boney M.’s 1979 hit “El Lute”) and “Niños De La Playa” (Children of the Beach). The latter was also released on Mega Records in Scandinavia where the group did a tour in October. By this point, Williams had been replaced by Carol Grey.

At the same time, Simon Napier-Bell had produced a remix album of Boney M.’s greatest hits and wanted the original line-up to promote it. Mitchell reluctantly accepted the offer and Boney M. appeared together again on German TV, even though Mitchell’s new line-up still had gigs to play.

The success of the remix album led Mitchell to sign her album for a French and Dutch release in 1989, and due to personal differences within the group, she eventually decided to focus on her solo career. Even though Madeleine Davis took her place in the group, Farian eventually called Mitchell back for a second remix album by the end of 1989 and also had her front a new Boney M. line-up for the single, “Stories”, as an answer-back to an unofficial Boney M. single, “Everybody Wants to Dance Like Josephine Baker”, recorded by the other three with Madeleine Davis, without Farian’s approval.

In 1990, Mitchell re-formed her 1988 line-up with Patricia Foster replacing Celena Duncan and kept touring the cabaret circuit. In April 1991, she released the single “Mocking Bird”, produced by longtime Boney M. collaborator, Helmut Rulofs to minimal attention. After three dire years, the success of Boney M. Gold – 20 Super Hitsboosted the career of her line-up, entitled ‘Boney M. feat. Liz Mitchell’, and they were officially approved by Farian to promote the album and the accompanying singles. For the follow-up More Gold – 20 Super Hits Vol. II, Mitchell recorded four new songs. No One Will Force You with two previously unreleased tracks from 1984 was also re-released in Denmark, five years after it was recorded.

In 1996, Mitchell and her husband Thomas Pemberton built the Dove House Studios and formed Dove House Records. With a newly founded fan club, Mitchell recorded an EP with four Christmas songs as a special Christmas gift for her fans.

In November 1999, Mitchell finally released her album Share the World, which had taken three years to complete. In November 2000, she released the seasonal albumChristmas Rose which consisted of partly new material, including the title track, “Lord’s Prayer” and “I Want to Go to Heaven” co-written by herself, part re-recordings of Boney M.’s Christmas Album.

Mitchell, now a born-again Christian, continued the inspirational path on Let It Be, her fourth solo album, released in November 2004. Just a few months later, the albumLiz Mitchell Sings the Hits of Boney M., recorded in Prague, backed by a Czech symphony orchestra, was released. A song recorded in 2006, called “A Moment Of Love”, can be found on the compilation album, The Magic of Boney M..

She is still touring, billed as Boney M. featuring Liz Mitchell.