British jazz star Pepi Lemer, who was the Spice Girls’ original vocal coach, is set to play an emotional gig in her return to the stage after beating cancer of the oesophagus.
The grandmother-of-four, who taught the likes of Graham Norton and Jennifer Saunders to sing and worked with The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Madonna, – will play at PizzaExpress Jazz Club in London’s Soho on June 27.
Thankfully the cancer did not affect her singing.
Pepi, 72, said: “This live show – and each and every one that follows – is a triumph over the impossible … because I never thought I would live to see them.”
She will perform songs from her new album Back2Front. Despite a career spanning six decades, this is her first ever solo record.
It was during the making of Back2Front when Pepi was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus, leading to a year-long battle.
Pepi added: “I was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of recording and didn’t know whether I would ever sing again.
“I went through 10 months of life without colour or everydayness. After that, it took another three months for my energy and drive to come back. But then I started singing again and found out my voice was thankfully not affected by the cancer.
“Finishing Back2Front became my motivation to recover, because in the middle of that darkness and turmoil, I had to show myself I could not only beat the cancer, but complete my dream of making this album against all the odds.”
When reflecting on her time spent with The Spice Girls, Pepi said: “The time with the girls was certainly a learning curve for them, as well as for me.
“They came from disparate backgrounds, had different personalities and were different vocally. Most had not left home, so were missing their families, and they had to learn to curb any egos and find a way of living and working together.
“They were practising learning as a group, not as individuals, so I had to fit into their needs.
“My time was spent very intensely with them. As you can imagine, they were learning to sing as a group – so there were quite a few tears!
“My impression of them was, and always has been, of a hard-working, ambitious and highly motivated group, which held them in good stead. I was part of their first team, and we all feel so proud of what they have achieved.”
Pepi lives in Hampstead, North West London, with her husband Paul, a producer. She has two daughters. She was born in Devon and brought up in Hackney.
Pepi will follow this month’s PizzaExpress Jazz Club concert with another London gig at The Vortex in July, with more shows to be announced. Information and tickets are available from www.pepilemer.com