Also Credited As:Florence + the Machine
|August 28, 1986|
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Florence Mary Leontine Welch was born on Aug. 28, 1986 in London, England. The oldest of three children, Welch's father worked in advertising and her mother was a Renaissance studies professor. She was born with dyspraxia, a form of dyslexia that did not affect her reading but had an effect on certain aspects of her life that required organization or focus. In her early teens, Welch was forced to deal with the suicide of her maternal grandmother, which reportedly triggered her fascination with darkness and gloom. As a way to express her feelings, Welch turned to music. She started singing along to artists like Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield before expanding her vocal range with arias. She was also heavily influenced by her father's punk and rock CD collection, becoming obsessed with soundtracks from cult films such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994).
An artist at heart, Welch briefly attended Camberwell College of the Arts in London, which boasted notable alumni such as Pink Floyd vocalist Roger 'Syd' Barrett and filmmaker Mike Leigh, before dropping out to pursue a music career. She sang in local pubs and bars with a band named Ashok, only to resign after reportedly feeling that she was in the wrong group. In 2007, Welch gathered a few of her friends and session players, and formed Florence + The Machine, an indie rock, soul, and pop band that started to gain notoriety in London's underground clubs and art scene.
Florence + The Machine, with Welch as its lead singer, released its 2009 debut album Lungs, a gothic- and pop-inspired collection of songs that showed off Welch's soaring voice, which drew comparisons to iconic British singers Kate Bush, Amy Winehouse and Siouxsie Sioux. The album also featured Welch's evocative lyrics about love, violence and death against a backdrop of string quartets, harps, tribal drums, syncopated handclaps, and other indecipherable wailing, sighing, and stomping sounds. Fueled by the infectious single "Dog Days Are Over," the album jumped from No. 44 to No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200, and earned Florence + The Machine a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2011. Reportedly inspired by a giant text installation by the New York-based artist Ugo Rondinone, the single "Dog Days Are Over" crept into America's consciousness in a big way, including the theatrical trailer of the film adaptation of "Eat Pray Love" (2010) starring Julia Roberts. Actresses Jenna Ushkowitz and Amber Riley also performed the uplifting song on an episode of the hit series "Glee" (Fox, 2009- ). Welch's haunting songs - including "Heavy in Your Arms," "Kiss with a Fist" - were also featured on soundtracks for the teen-oriented films "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" (2010) and "Jennifer's Body" (2009).
Aside from her vocal stylings, Welch's studied fairy-meets-vamp look also set her apart from her contemporaries. Florence + The Machine's frontwoman often played up her translucent skin and fiery red hair with a parade of diaphanous long dresses and edgy accessories like chiffon batwings, and for the cover of Lungs, a sheer dress with fine chains that revealed a set of prosthetic leather lungs. Welch channeled a more glamorous, polished look for the cover of the band's second album Ceremonials, which Rolling Stone described as "dark, robust, and romantic as ever." Like the band's previous work, their sophomore effort delivered soaring ballads like "What the Water Gave Me" and "Never Let Me Go" as well as some dance-worthy tracks including "Lover to Lover" and "Shake It Out" - all encompassed in a package of heartbreak and suicide-like dark themes set against music with Celtic, blues, rock, and gospel touches.
By Candy Cuenco