A song from British musician Jamie Cullum in which he channels his Jewish heritage towards today’s problems has won a prestigious Ivor Novello award.
Cullum’s award for “best song musically and lyrically” was given for ‘The Age of Anxiety,’ which has been described as “a power ballad that crams in reflections on immigration, self-worth, Brexit, social media, child-rearing and love”.
Cullum, 41, who is now the most successful British jazz singer of all time, told the Guardian that the idea for the song came after someone said he was “not sharing enough of my personal life” through his social media channels.
He said it became a “free association of all the things that make me feel anxious”, with lyrics about asylum seekers, adding: “We have a duty to show compassion to people who are in the greatest kind of need.”
Cullum said the lyrics about immigration were inspired by his parents. “My mother came on a boat from Burma, and my dad’s mum was Jewish and escaped Nazi Germany,” he said.
“They came to this country brand new as children, and it’s not something that was talked about when I was a kid, because that journey was so traumatic.
“It came up in this song because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about as an adult and a parent. You start to think about that history.”
Cullum is married to the author and former model Sophie Dahl, granddaughter of Roald Dahl, and has previously spoken of his Jewish paternal grandmother, including her chicken soup and matzo balls.
“She always had a steaming bowl of ‘Jewish penicillin’ ready for us whenever we visited her,” he said. “She was born in Prussia, now part of Poland, and during the Second World War she became a refugee in Jerusalem, where she met my grandfather, who was in the Army.
“Although my father was born in Jerusalem, the family then settled in the UK. After their terrible wartime experiences, many Jews were frightened to embrace their faith or history, so my dad was brought up in the Church of England. However, certain things persisted from the family’s Jewish roots – including the chicken soup!”
The Ivor Novello awards honour the best in British song-writing and screen composition and judges, including Lily Allen and Joan Armatrading, praised ‘The Age of Anxiety’ as “beautifully emotive, with an exceptionally crafted melody”.
Other winners of the 2020 Ivor Novello awards were ‘Black’ by Dave for best contemporary song, while best album went to London rapper Little Simz, AKA Simbiatu Ajikawo, for ‘Grey Area.’