Neneh Mariann Karlsson (born 10 March 1964), better known as Neneh Cherry, is a Swedish singer-songwriter, rapper, and occasional DJ and broadcaster.
To date, Cherry has released 4 studio albums. Her first, Raw Like Sushi was released 1989 and peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. Her second studio album was 1992’s Homebrew, which was less successful. 4 years later she released Man, and then released her most recent studio album Blank Project in 2014. In addition to releasing these studio albums, she formed the band cirKus in 2006, and has collaborated with The Thing, releasing an album entitled The Cherry Thing in 2012.
Cherry was born as Neneh Mariann Karlsson in Stockholm , the daughter of Monica “Moki” Karlsson, a Swedish painter and textile artist, and the musician Ahmadu Jah. Jah was born in Sierra Leone, the son of a chief, and went to Stockholm to study engineering at university.
Cherry’s mother married the influential American jazz musician Don Cherry, who helped raise Cherry since birth. Cherry took her stepfather’s surname.
Cherry has a half-sister, singer Titiyo, and half-brother, record producer Cherno Jah, from her father Ahmadu Jah’s marriage to Maylen Jah (née Bergström). Cherry also has a half-brother, musician Eagle-Eye Cherry, a stepsister, violinist Jan Cherry, and a stepbrother, jazz musician David Ornette Cherry from stepfather Don Cherry’s side.
Cherry’s parents, Moki and Don Cherry, bought and converted an old schoolhouse in the countryside outside the small town of Hässleholm in Sweden in 1970. In the early 1970s, the family moved to the United States, when Don Cherry taught at Dartmouth College. Cherry dropped out of school at 14 and moved to London in the midst of the Punk era, and she remembers finding “her people” there. Cherry had met Tessa Pollitt, Viv Albertine and Ari Up from The Slits earlier as her stepfather, Don Cherry, was touring with them and brought the 15-year-old Neneh along. She and Ari lived in a squat in Battersea. She felt at home, after ending up there because The Slits invited Don Cherry to go on tour with them with Prince Hammer and Creation Rebel.
In London, Cherry joined the punk rock band The Cherries. She moved through several bands, including The Slits, New Age Steppers, Rip Rig + Panic, and Float Up CP. She also deejayed, playing early rap music on the reggae pirate Dread Broadcasting Corporation.
She began a solo career in 1982 with “Stop the War”, a protest song about the Falklands War. She worked with Jonny Dollar, The The and Cameron McVey (a.k.a. Booga Bear), who co-wrote most of her 1989 debut album Raw Like Sushi, and whom she would eventually marry. She was intimately involved in the Bristol Urban Culture scene, working as an arranger on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines album, through which she met Dollar. Both Robert Del Naja and Andrew Vowles of Massive Attack contributed to Raw Like Sushi.
The single “Buffalo Stance” eventually peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Dance chart. More singles released between 1988 and 1990 included “Manchild,” “Kisses on the Wind,” “Heart,” and “Inna City Mama.” She also found success with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, a reworking of the Cole Porter song, which appeared on the Red Hot + Blue AIDS fundraising album. The single reached number 25 in the UK.Cherry was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1990 in the Best New Artist Category; she lost out to Milli Vanilli, who later had their Grammy revoked when it was discovered that they had not performed on their recording. She won a Brit Award in 1990 for Raw Like Sushi.
Cherry caused a press furore when she performed “Buffalo Stance” on Top of the Pops while pregnant (with her second child, Tyson)