“I was a closeted singer,” states 58-year-old Jude Adams. As a child and teenager, she says, she knew she could hold a tune, but she kept her vocal ability hidden for decades – not singing publicly until she was 50. “I have very high expectations of myself, and I thought my voice had to be better than it was to share it.”  

Jude Adams

Jude Adams

Instead of chasing a singing career, she went to sports college, and entered the health and fitness industry. After 21 years she left that trade, and moved with her partner Marg to the Kent countryside. With the help of a three-year diploma in interior design, she renovated their home and ran what she describes as “a sort of boutique B&B”.  

One holiday, Marg told Jude that if she didn’t nurse her talent for singing now, she’d live to regret it. They came home, and Marg bought her some singing lessons. Six months later, at Jude’s 50th birthday party, she came out of the closet; she took to the stage, with session musicians, and sang for an audience made up of 100 friends and family. From there, she kept on with her lessons, went to jazz workshops in London, performed more, and even began to record.  

However, in 2011, she was diagnosed with M.E. “I had to stop all forms of work, and stop performing.” She was undergoing lots of different treatments for the physical symptoms of the chronic illness, but there were also the “mental and emotional” ones to contend with. For this, she was advised to keep a journal, and thus spent hours daily putting what was in her head to paper. After a while, she recognised that what she was chronicling – at times – resembled song lyrics, which she could then come up with tunes for. Out of this grew This Girl, This Woman: an album of ten original songs (arranged and produced by Janette Mason) which Jude recorded in late 2015. Prior to this, the singer had only ever done covers. “When I started writing, I wasn’t doing it in order to write an album,” she says, “it was certainly not something I ever dreamt I could do.”  

In September 2016, This Girl, This Woman enjoyed what Jude calls a “fabulous multimedia launch”, comprising an exhibition of her story in pictures, words, and lyrics; a video installation; an ‘in conversation’ about the making of the album with broadcaster Rosie Millard; and a live set from Communards singer Sarah Jane Morris – who duets with Jude on the album, in ‘Soaking All the Blues Away’. This year, Jude says, “we’ve effectively re-enacted the launch, in small ways, on three occasions”. The exhibition and video installation have been displayed again, and Jude has been doing more ‘in conversations’. She has also been performing tracks from the album, making a return to the live stage after a six year absence. Furthermore, four songs off the album have been used for a Clare Unsworth documentary named ‘Older Women Rock!’ – “an initiative,” says Jude, “about the challenges older women face in all sorts of different ways. It’s a huge privilege to have my music featuring on that.”  

Jude Adams

Jude Adams

One of the songs on This Girl, This Woman is entitled ‘Don’t Judge Me No More’. It condemns all kinds of prejudice and discrimination, but its mention unsurprisingly leads to discussion about Jude’s experiences as a gay woman. She didn’t come out professionally, she informs, until she was at least 30. “Socially, I was leading a very private life – going to clubs, and having relationships that I couldn’t share with colleagues.” She doesn’t believe keeping her sexuality under wraps at work was a sign of weakness. She was just protecting herself, she says, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. However, she points out, it is a shame it was even necessary for her to protect herself – “and that it is perhaps still necessary”. Indeed, Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt told The Independent in 2014 that gay people still had to “edit” themselves, that as soon as she and her partner got into Zone 3 on the Underground, they’d stop holding hands. Jude echoes these sentiments, saying there are still places today where she would be wary of walking hand-in-hand with Marg – who she’s been in a relationship with for over 20 years.  

“We have seen a huge amount of change for the better in so many ways,” she says about rights for the LGBT community, “but I’m saddened to know there is still so much that has to be done.” There is progress to be made in the UK, and much to be achieved abroad, she resumes, not ignoring “the atrocities that go on in other countries”. She says, “In so many ways, we have so much more freedom. People can be so much more open, and there is so much more acceptance. But there’s still an awful lot of discrimination and bigotry.”  

Insofar as progress regarding her M.E recovery goes, Jude is “probably 95 per cent there”. Most of her symptoms have gone, although she can still get very fatigued. “I have to manage myself. It’s not something I always do brilliantly, because I have an enthusiasm for life that sometimes needs to be reined in a little bit.” But, she continues, “I’m getting there, and hopefully next year will see me take another great stride forward in my recovery, as well as artistically.”  

Creatively speaking, over the next year and a half, Jude will be working on a memoir, and writing new songs to accompany it. “I love autobiographies, but I would feel daunted at the prospect of writing my own; but I like the idea of writing a memoir – I love to read little vignettes and stories, I think they’re very interesting, they can be a lot of fun.”  

Ultimately, she wants to keep on sharing her story with the world, “in order to help raise awareness of M.E and other chronic illnesses”. She wants to inspire others with such afflictions into believing that their sickness needn’t mean the end of their pursuits, all the while showing that you don’t have to be in your 20s to, as she puts it, “embark on new beginnings”. 

This Girl, This Woman is available now. judeadamssings.net 

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