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Antony Hegarty is an English singer, composer, and visual artist, best known as the lead singer of the band Antony and the Johnsons and for his work with the musical collective Hercules and Love Affair.
Antony was born in the town of Chichester, South East England in 1971. In 1981 Antony's family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States. Becoming influenced by British synth pop, in 1990 he moved to Manhattan, New York to study at New York University; here, he founded a performance art collective, Blacklips, with Johanna Constantine.
Entering a musical career, he began performing with an ensemble of NYC musicians as Antony and the Johnsons. Their first album, Antony and the Johnsons, was released in 2000 on David Tibet's label Durtro. Their second album, I Am a Bird Now (2005), was a commercial and critical success, earning Antony the Mercury Music Prize.
Antony Hegarty was born in Chichester, West Sussex, England, UK, in 1971. In 1977, his family moved to Amsterdam for a year, and then, in 1981, they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area of California where he grew up. As a teenager, he was influenced by Kate Bush as well as British synth pop – in particular, singers such as Marc Almond, Alison Moyet and Boy George, and was also strongly influenced by underground stars Diamanda Galás, Rozz Williams, Divine and Klaus Nomi and American singers including Nina Simone, Otis Redding, and Donny Hathaway. In 1990, Antony moved to Manhattan to attend the Experimental Theatre Wing of New York University, and founded the performance collective Blacklips with creative partner Johanna Constantine. He spent the next several years singing in after-hours bars and clubs using pre-recorded cassettes as self-accompaniment as well as writing and directing late night theatre productions.After being awarded a grant from New York Foundation for the Arts for the 1996 production of "The Birth of Anne Frank/The Ascension of Marsha P. Johnson" at Performance Space 122, Antony solicited accompanying musicians to record a number of songs he wrote in the early 1990s. The ensemble performed for the first time as "Antony and the Johnsons" at The Kitchen as part of William Basinski's installation "Life on Mars" in 1997. In 1999, the group began to perform more frequently at venues such as Joe's Pub and The Knitting Factory in New York City. British experimental musician David Tibet of Current 93 heard the recording and offered to release it through his Durtro record label; the debut album, Antony and the Johnsons, was released in 2000. In 2001, Antony released a follow-up EP through Durtro, I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy, which, in addition to the title track, included a cover of a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song "Mysteries of Love", and a Current 93 song, "Soft Black Stars".
Antony and the Johnsons' 2005 album I Am a Bird Now featured guest performances by Lou Reed, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Devendra Banhart. The album was released in North America by Secretly Canadian Records and in Europe by Rough Trade. It received considerable praise and won the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize and was named Album of the Year by Mojo magazine. The band toured North America, Europe, Australia and parts of South America for a year and a half in support of I am a Bird Now. The song "Bird Gerhl" was featured in the soundtrack for the movie V for Vendetta.
Antony and the Johnsons collaborated with experimental film maker Charles Atlas and presented TURNING in Nov 2006 in Rome, London, Paris, Madrid, and Braga. The concert featured live video portraits of some of New York City's most enigmatic women. The Guardian called the piece "fragile, life affirming, and truly wonderful (five stars)" Le Monde in Paris hailed TURNING as "Concert-manifeste transsexuel."
Antony and the Johnsons' 5-song Another World EP was released on October 7, 2008. Antony and the Johnsons' third album, The Crying Light, was released on January 19, 2009. The album peaked at number 1 on the European Billboard charts. Antony has described the theme of the album as being "about landscape and the future." The album was mixed by Bryce Goggin and includes arrangements by Nico Muhly. Ann Powers wrote of The Crying Light for the LA Times online, "it's the most personal environmentalist statement possible, making an unforeseen connection between queer culture's identity politics and the green movement. As music, it's simply exquisite – more controlled and considered than anything Antony and the Johnsons have done and sure to linger in the minds of listeners."
After touring throughout North America and Europe in support of their new album, Antony and the Johnsons presented a unique staging of "The Crying Light" with the Manchester Camerata at the Manchester Opera House for the 2009 Manchester International Festival. The concert hall was transformed into a crystal cave filled with laser effects created by installation artist Chris Levine. Antony and the Johnsons have gone on to present concerts with symphonies across Europe in Summer 2009, including the Opera Orchestra of Lyon, the Metropole Orchestra, Roma Sinfonietta and the Montreux Jazz Festival Orchestra. At Salle Playel in Paris, Antony appeared in a costume designed by Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy
Fall 2010 saw the release of Thank You For Your Love EP and in October the full length album Swanlights on Secretly Canadian and Rough Trade. Abrams Books also published a book edition of Swanlights featuring Antony's drawings and collages with photography by Don Felix Cervantes. At the end of October Antony performed a special concert in New York City at Lincoln Center to commemorate the life of Kazuo Ohno who had died in June 2010
In January 2011, Antony was a guest on "Winterguest", a program on Dutch Television's VPRO channel and was interviewed by Leon Verdonschot discussing his political and ecological viewpoints in reference to different film clips.
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