Former Boney M. singer Liz Mitchell on the origins of her musical career and Eurovision myths

Virgin Radio

21 Oct 2023, 12:09

The former lead singer of Boney M., Liz Mitchell, has opened up about how her journey to the UK and Germany ultimately led to her stellar career in music. 

She sat down with academic Mykaell Riley as part of his Black History Month specials across Virgin Radio this month. 

Every Sunday evening at 7pm, Mykaell focuses on a band or artist from his Windrush75 playlist. He started with The Story of Billy Ocean, and the rest of the series will include in-depth interviews with the likes of UB40 and Beverley Knight. 

The next special airs on Sunday 22nd October, and no stone was left unturned during the open conversation with Liz. 

The singer left Jamaica in 1963 as a child to live in London with her parents, and in the few years after, Liz started to pick up an appreciation of music.

The Gotta Go Home singer admitted her household featured more news and new music, but that all changed when she listened to the radio with her friends. 

She explained: “I started hearing all the Motown songs and we were allowed to watch TV. We could see all the 60s artists as they came on for the Top of the Pops at that time...all the American stars would come on.”

That introduction to music meant that Liz started a band with her friends, and while they were “ambitious”, showbiz felt like something out of reach…until a life-changing meeting in a local cafe. 

“Once I finished school, I would race down to the cafe and I opened it and whoever came in, I would serve them whatever they wish, a cup of tea most of the times that people want,” she continued. “

“I always had a few coins on me. I went to the jukebox and chose my song, which was a Sam Cooke song. I started singing along with Sam and I was doing the harmony with Sam. The gentleman who was having his cup of tea asked me, ‘who taught me to sing?’ I was kind of puzzled with the question. I thought singing comes naturally to everybody.”

The gentleman in question worked for the Pearl Connor Agency, and from there, Liz was asked to audition for backing vocals. When Liz turned 17, she was called back up and she landed her first stage role in Berlin - kicking off her first time in Europe. 

The artist added: “This opportunity comes and I decided to go to Berlin. I have no idea where I'm going. I'd never heard German spoken before. Everybody there speaks German, you know, and I'm looking with wide eyes try to figure what they’re saying.”

Berlin was where Liz eventually met record producer Frank Farian, who was putting together a new group, later called Boney M. 

Joining Liz were Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell, and the “Euro Caribbean vocal act” went to the top of the charts with the likes of Daddy Cool, Sunny and Rasputin, which found a renewed audience after becoming a viral hit on TikTok. 

On Boney M. making waves with a brand new generation, Liz remarked: “I am so overwhelmed with joy that we have these 22 billion hits on TikTok. At my shows, I say to the audience, ‘I don't have a TikTok account’. 

“They are just in love with the music. They're in love with the energy of our music, and it's not just Rasputin, believe me, they are loving all of our songs and that they found it or they're finding it for themselves. It's, for me, the fun in all of this.”

Outside of Boney M, Liz is a successful singer and performer in her own right, and Mykaell couldn’t help but clear up one Eurovision myth. 

Asking about representing Germany in the celebrated Song Contest, Liz set the record straight, telling him: “There was the Les Humphries group, but I was not a member of that group. Boney M. never did Eurovision because we never had time to do Eurovision. None of our songs ever went to Eurovision, but the Les Humphries singers went to the Eurovision, or tried to.”

Mykaell Riley’s Black History Month 2023 specials continue on Virgin Radio from 7pm every Sunday in October.