UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 24 JULY 2023
Beverley Knight MBE has been hailed as the “Queen of British soul and a true icon of the West Midlands” by Sir Lenny Henry after receiving an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University (BCU) at an awards ceremony at Symphony Hall.
Born in Wolverhampton, Knight is an award-winning singer, songwriter and actress, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2006 for services to British music and charity. She also performed at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Sir Lenny Henry, Chancellor of BCU, said: “Beverley is the Queen of British soul and a true icon for the West Midlands, well and truly flying the flag for Wolverhampton.
“She’s an accomplished songwriter and a dynamite live performer. She's been behind some of the most powerful music to come out of the UK in recent times – and if that wasn’t enough, she’s also made a huge impact in her charity roles.”
Knight, who lists Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin among her early influences, said: “I am thrilled to be conferred with an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University. I have always spoken of my pride at being part of the community of fantastic musicians hailing from the Black Country and Birmingham, as beautifully demonstrated at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“I hope my career can inspire the young minds who share the graduation day with me.”
In her acceptance speech, Knight praised BCU graduates for their “resilience and perseverance” and urged them to “be bold”.
“Don’t be scared to take the path which is less travelled because down that path there is going to be something more amazing than you could have ever predicted.”
Best known for the songs ‘Greatest Day’, ‘Get Up!’, ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ and ‘Come As You Are’, Knight has won three MOBO Awards, received three nominations for Best Female at the Brit Awards, and has also been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
She has sung with Prince, Take That, Chaka Khan and Jamiroquai, to name but a few, and has scored several Top 10 albums, with more than a million sales in the UK.
In recent years, Knight has also forged a formidable career in theatre, receiving, in April, an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her much-praised portrayal of Emmeline Pankhurst in 'Sylvia' at the Old Vic.
She also received Olivier Award nominations for her roles as Faye Treadwell in the critically acclaimed 'The Drifter’s Girl' and as Felicia Farrell in the Tony-winning hit show 'Memphis The Musical'.
Her first new studio album in seven years, ‘The Fifth Chapter’, will be released this September, followed by her biggest-ever tour of the UK this autumn.