Pauline Black: The Queen Of Ska

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Pauline Black (center) with her band, The Selecter.

The influential British band called The Selecter formed in the late 1970s, around a style of music called 2 Tone ska -- a hi octane blend of rock, jazz and roots reggae, often with a socially conscious message. The group’s frontwoman, Pauline Black, was hailed as “The Queen of Ska” -- and she still is. Black tells her story in a recent memoir called Black By Design, and a new album, called String Theory.

This segment originally aired on Sept. 24, 2013.

    Interview Highlights

    Pauline Black, on how being adopted shaped her:

    I do still consider myself, to a certain extent, to be an outsider. I'm mixed-race. My father was Nigerian, my mother was Jewish. I was adopted by working-class white parents in London. By the time I was four years old I was ready to go to school so they had to tell me something because, you know, kids always point out the elephant in the room. I was definitely the elephant in the room in the school I went to. It didn't come as a a shock necessarily. It did make me think. Obviously, it gives you identity issues I suppose as you grow into teenage years. Everybody has identity problems at that time. Not knowing your mother or your father - your real mother or father- it does tend to make you a little more insecure than you would normally be.

    On how Motown appealed to her as a teenager:

    It was like the information was coming from America about what it meant to be Black. I mean, James Brown named the nation Black and I thought, 'Yep, that's for me.' .... The video of [Aretha Franklin] strutting down the street singing ["Respect"] at full voice to a little Black kid in Britain, that meant a lot.



    On The Selecter's new album String Theory:

    On Made In Britain [we were] saying 'whatever color you are, we're here. Somehow we have to deal with each other, and that is the future, and what comes out of that.' String Theory is really just taking it on and thinking about my scientific background. String Theory would suggest that we're all made of the same stuff, these little vibrating strings are all the way through the universe. That's what connects us. It seemed to be this lovely connect with our past, this string that we were following from 1979 to present day. Really saying, that we are all the same. All we have to do is embrace the fact that at the end of the day we all are human beings and the best thing we can do is stop ourselves from messing this planet up more than we have already.