He is arguably one of the finest and most respected deejays in the world today whose talents and many years of dedicated service to his profession have now seen him rightfully acknowledged by the highest authority in the land.
On Saturday 15th June 2002, Norman was officially cited in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours List with the recommendation that he be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, an MBE no less, awarded on merit for "deejaying and services to music". On Tuesday 12th November 2002, Norman was officially invited to attend a royal investiture at Buckingham Palace (London) where he was duly invested and presented with the highly coveted MBE medal by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II herself. It is indeed the highest civilian honour yet conferred on anyone from the relatively new field of post modern UK club culture and black music - a fitting tribute in recognition of his many outstanding musical achievements and invaluable contributions to music in a career spanning well over two decades.
The early days...
A self confessed 'Beatle baby' born in Notting Hill, London of West Indian parents, the young Jay had unwittingly displayed latent deejaying talents even from the tender age of eight. By then, encouraged by his music loving parents, he had bought his first record and played at his first gig - a 10th birthday party for one his female cousins - displaying for the first time, a precocious talent that was later to become the stuff of deejaying legend.
As young as he was, Norman eventually became hooked on all aspects of black music, becoming increasingly influenced by his father's huge collection of original 60's blu beat, ska and rock steady reggae from Jamaica. His father also introduced the young Jay to the delights of the powerful new, exciting r&b soul sounds emanating from late 60's black America from the likes of Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and James Brown et al. This childhood music experience would have a profound lasting effect on the young Jay - cementing his love of all kinds of black music forever.
By the late 1970's he had become an avid follower of contemporary Afro-American music styles including funk, soul and jazz fusion - enthusiastically collecting classic urban labels like MOTOWN then graduating to seminal record labels like ATLANTIC, STAX, PRELUDE, WEST END and SALSOUL - including his passion - 'The Sound of Philadelphia'. He was fortunate enough to find himself over in the 'Big Apple' in time to experience the rise of 'disco' first time around during the late 70's - and again a few years later being present at the birth of rap and hip hop culture during the early 1980's in New York's notorious South Bronx.
New York, 1979
Whilst on a first time visit to relatives in BROOKLYN, New York around the same time - he was invited to play at his very first bona fide 'block party' alongside his uncle who - as it turned out, was also an accomplished deejay and sound system owner/operator of repute himself - proving the fact that deejaying talent ran very much in the Jay family.
He was later destined to make many more trips stateside - sometimes staying for months at a time - frequenting (and sometimes playing at) most of the seminal New York venues that mattered back in the day - including Dancetaria, World, Palladium, Zanzibar, The Shelter, The Sound Factory, Body & Soul, Giant Step and the legendary Paradise Garage in it's heyday - forging lasting personal friendships with the likes of it's resident dj icon - the legendary (late) Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and David Morales, Tony Humphries and Louis Vega of MAW - years before most of them had ever been heard of in the UK.
Inspired by what he'd seen and experienced on that inaugural trip - Jay decided there and then to take his deejaying career more seriously. Upon his return to the uk - he then teamed up with his brother JOEY and built the now legendary GOOD TIMES SOUND SYSTEM - where he embarked upon a mission to fulfill a long held childhood ambition to play at the infamous NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL - where he played FUNK, SOUL and DISCO (something completely unheard of in those days). This he did in the face of fierce opposition and considerable hostility to his initial efforts. His dogged determination to succeed saw him eventually triumph - ultimately winning him critical acclaim from his peers and fans in the process.
Pirate Kiss FM...
His reputation as an underground deejay of some repute began to grow rapidly. By now he was attracting crowds of up to several thousand people whenever he played out at one of his huge itinerant (and illegal) warehouse parties. This led to an invitation from old London dj pal Gordon Mac to start up their own pirate radio station which they called KISS (after it's New York namesake). Completely untrained in any aspect of broadcasting - he nervously presented his very first 'live' radio show the day after the station debuted on the capital's airwaves back in October 1985. The rest, as they say, is radio history.
Because of the genuine respect he was afforded by fellow club and radio deejays alike - he became the catalyst for attracting the likes of emerging London dj's like Coldcut's Jonathon More and Matt Black, Soul II Soul's Jazzie B, Dr. Bob Jones, Danny Rampling, Talkin Loud's Giles Peterson and MTV's Trevor 'The Lick' Nelson (and many more) to join the newly created pirate station. Like Jay, few, (if any) had had any previous radio experience before being recruited by Norman to join the fledgeling station. All have gone on to become household names in dance culture over the years - including his original partner and protégé - the ubiquitous 'Judge' Jules - who's nickname Jay is also credited with coining.
It was this initial deejay partnership formed in 1986 which led directly to the emergence of the cult late 80's 'rare groove' scene - a term coined by Norman after his now legendary saturday afternoon radio show - 'The Original Rare Groove Show' on Kiss 94fm (as it was then). Affectionately known as the 'GODFATHER' - his much vaunted Shake 'n' Fingerpop party crew - along with Judge Jules' Family Funktion collective were among the leading purveyors of this funky new underground dance phenomenon sweeping London and the home counties - playing a mainly urban soundtrack from the 70's and 80's mixing it up with the best of what was then - a brand new sound coming out of Chicago and New York - namely - the sound of HOUSE music.
They were amongst the first British deejays to champion this new US music style to their huge eager young audiences. Together - they were responsible for the first and largest warehouse parties ever staged in London up to that time - preceding the acid house explosion by some three years - creating a huge impression on - and indeed inspiring many of - today's leading British deejays and club promoters.
High On Hope...
The Nineties dawned and it was time for Jay to seek new musical challenges. On September 1st, 1990 - he hosted the very first legal broadcast on KISS 100fm (as it became known) after they won their legal licence. He was responsible for co-establishing the very first 'Paradise Garage' style club in Britain called 'High On Hope' with ex partner Patrick Lilley - playing a spiritually inspired mix of deep US house mixed with original disco classics.
He was also responsible for introducing - then unknown US deejays and artists such as Tony Humphries, Marshall Jefferson, Blaze, Ten City, Adeva and Louis Vega (MAW) to the UK for the first time ever (another first). He again was responsible for reviving interest in - and in some instances was responsible for - kick starting the careers in the uk of original US dance divas such as Jocelyn Brown, Chaka Khan, Sharon Redd, Loleatta Holloway, Kim Myzelle, En Vogue and Gwen Guthrie - finally helping secure for them the uk recognition he felt they richly deserved. All regularly apeared at his ground breaking club to rapturous acclaim every time.
The 'Talkin Loud' Years...
By now Jay's achievements had seen him become a much respected icon on the UK dance scene. He was headhunted by Polygram Records to launch a new label called Talkin Loud with close friend and fellow deejay Giles Peterson - signing amongst others - the likes of singer/songwriters Omar, Bryan Powell, Young Disciples, Galliano and Incognito. After three successful years - and many more happy years at Kiss - he decided it was time to quit both and pursue his first love - deejaying.
With the global rise in interest in UK deejay and dance culture, Jay has once again found his niche being extremely popular with a new generation of dance fans around the world. He regularly plays at a host of clubs, festivals and parties worldwide. Whether it's playing upfront disco fuelled funky house in the nations main rooms or his much vaunted old skool jazzfunk, hip hop or chilled out beats in the back, he still manages to inject his rich musical heritage and quality in every set he plays. Whilst being amongst one of the most popular and credible contemporary deejays in the country, he is often cited as a major influence by a host of today's leading deejays who often refer to him quite simply as 'The deejay's DJ'.
With increasing deejaying commitments around the world - including regular tours to countries such as Australia, USA, Canada, Japan, S.Africa and the Middle/Far East - playing an eclectic mix of black and dance music - Norman has precious little time to do much else these days. He has played in just about every major city in Europe - being one of the first British deejays ever to do so.
Apart from the punishing deejay schedule, he was again voted club DJ of the year 96/97 by Blues & Soul magazine and is the only DJ featured in the Face magazine's book of club culture extracts from 1980-1997 called "Nightfever" and in 1998 Norman was a nominee for the Best Radio Personality category in GQ magazine's annual Men Of The Year Awards.
In January 2004 he made clubbing history by becoming the first ever DJ - direct from the 'streets' to be invited to appear as a panellist on the nation's most prestigeous and celebrated long running political debating forum; BBC Question Time. In June 2003, he was specially invited to deejay for the family and guests at the French international and Arsenal soccer star, Thierry Henry's wedding.
He is without doubt the deejay of choice of the rich and famous 'celebrity set'. He has played for the likes of Mick Jagger (now Sir Mick of course) at his exclusive 5Oth birthday party - Robert Di Nero, Michael Caine, George Michael, Will Smith, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Jamiroquai (who affectionately calls him the 'Godfather'), Paul Weller (who has been quoted as saying that Jay is his favourite dj), comedian Lenny Henry (who reputedly modelled his pirate radio deejay TV character on Jay) and most recently for David and Victoria Beckham at one of their star studded charity events in London, December 2006
Other include top fashion designers, Viviene Westwood, Gaultier, Tommy Hilfiger, D&G - and more recently for an exclusive MTV party at Pierre Cardin's magnificent space age villa overlooking the Mediterranean - located high up in the hills outside Cannes in the South of France. All have partied wildy to a funky Norman Jay set.
He is also often invited to play at the most prestigious UK film premieres - including 101 Dalmations, Judge Dred, Enemy Of The State, East Is East - and most recently - at the launch of movie giant Samuel L. Jackson's (one of his favourite actors) 51st State and recently in December 2006 'Dejavu' film premier after party. He also presided over the decks at the multi million pound launch of Sky TV's new digital satalite cable channel at Battersea Power Station.
Numerous international brands have seen the benefit of Norman's distinct music style. Virgin passengers have been enjoying his specially tailored in-flight radio show. He has also headlined private parties, launches and marketing campaigns for Hennes and Mauritz (H&M), Seagrams, Interbrew (Boddingtons, Bass, Stella Artois, etc), Nintendo, Clarks shoes, Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, LG, Sony Ericsson, Puma, Channel 4 & 5, ITV, Leo Burnett, Saatchi and Saatchi, Discovery Channel, Observer Newspaper, Sony Walkman European launch, Sony Vaio, Southern Comfort, Bacardi, Budweiser King of Clubs, Hilton, UNICEF etc.
Good Times: The Film...
He was the first ever British dj to be invited to play at the celebrated Cannes Film Festival - and in recognition of his lifelong deejaying achievements and involvement in club culture - Jay himself was the subject of a full length documentary style film. 'Good Times - The Film' is a semi autobiographical and anecdotal account of the man - his music - and his influence on British club culture - directed by London based independent film maker Terry Walshe. It uses rare archive footage from Good Times - documenting Jay's early struggles to follow his musical passion and fulfill his deejaying dreams.
It highlights his influence on - and his importance to - the modern dance scene as we know it today since he embarked on his illustrious deejay career back in the early eighties. With talking head interviews with fellow peer group deejays and former promoters including Judge Jules, Soul II Soul's Jazzie B and MTV's Trevor Nelson - all of whom citing Jay as having more than a measure influence on their respective deejaying careers - the film follows the deejay icon on his global jaunts from Africa to America to The Big Chill to Notting Hill Carnival. The film then concludes with fantastic footage of Norman presiding over his beloved Good Times hoardes at Carnival 2000.
After a successful (but low key) big screen premiere in London on November 2001 - Good Times - the Film then went on to completely sell out its initial two week launch run at both London's top independently owned - and run - CURZON (Soho) and RITZY (Brixton) Arthouse cinemas - with little or no pre hype (something completely unheard of for a new independent underground film about club culture) - leading to a great deal of interest from a number of national and international film distributors now looking to get involved in what is without doubt - the first dj inspired club culture film project of its kind. Negotiations are now well in hand to release the film and soundtrack nationwide - perhaps worldwide - as the very first dj DVD release sometime later this year.
Continually featured in the upper echelons of Mixmag's top 100 DJs in the world and one of the Face magazine's most influential club culture figures of the last decade, amongst numerous other accolades attributed to him, Jay's contribution to the UK music scene is second to none. He is a deejay icon featuring regularly on various television, radio and magazine programmes on black music and dance culture. Norman Jay, a recognised authority on both is considered by many of his peers and contemporaries to be 'The Peoples DJ' because of the width and breadth of his deejaying style and universal appeal. The Face magazine quite rightly proclaimed him 'A clubland institution'. He is also one of a select band of famous musicians, actors and sporstmen to be included in the highly prestigious style book 'Laurel' - a photographic tribute to the classic british label 'FRED PERRY' in it's golden jubilee year in 2003.
In addition to his own Giant 45 radio show on BBC London 94.9FM, Norman is also seen regularly on various network television programmes. He is a recognised authority on black music and uk club culture - featuring prominently in the recent 'Soul Nation' documentary series screened on Channel 4. He has also presented many documentary style programmes for BBC Radio 2, including profiling the likes of legendary American record producer Quincy Jones. He also hosted the highly acclaimed disco series 'Good Times: The Story of Disco' late in (2003) and the successful funk show ' The Funk Factory' which is now in its 6th series. The Highly anticipated series 'Soul Brittania' to be screened on BBC 2 television Feb 2007 heavily features Norman Jay and Good Times at Notting Hill Carnival.
As an in demand compiler he has released a number of superbly crafted compilation CD's. The latest of which is a fantastic double CD called Good Times 6, which was released in the UK in August 2006, again on Resist Records ( formally React). This is the follow up release in the massively popular series 'Joey and Norman Jay Presents...Good Times' and showcases more eclectic Carnival favourites old and new. Since Nuphonic's demise, who originally released Good Times 1 and 2 (which had been deleted), React records released Good Times 3 & 4 and then Resist releasing Good Times 5 & 6 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Good Times at The Notting Hill Carnival. Good Times 3 being re-released Feb 2007 due to excess popular demand.
February 2004 saw the release of "Giant 45"featuring the differing music styles from Norman's hugely successful weekly radio show on BBC London 94.9 FM called "Giant 45". April 2007 will see the release of the next instalment of Giant 45 vol 2.
Also available is the double CD released by that most glamorous of UK glamorous niteries Miss Moneypenny's. CD 1 contains 13 of the most soulful garage tracks from 1998/99 deftly mixed by our man Jay while CD 2 contains eleven of the funkiest 'Good Grooves' ever! 'Miss Moneypenny's Presents...Norman Jay' is still available through K-Tel, Tower Records, Virgin, HMV or Amazon.com on CD format only. Other recommended releases include Norman Jay Presents Philadelphia 1973 -1981 - The Underground Anthems. Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson's classic Journey By DJS 'Desert Island Discs' has been re-released due to popular demand after the original release reached cult status worldwide out on Journey by DJ US.
He is also working through one of his busiest DJ schedules to date taking him to new parties, clubs and festivals the world over whilst continuing to host his massively popular 'Giant 45' radio show, a weekly black music based programme broadcast every Sunday night on BBC London on 94.9 FM between 6:00pm - 8:00pm. You can listen live online or on demand from www.bbc.co.uk/london or there is a link from Norman Jay's own website www.normanjay.com