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Alice Martineau - Telegraph/Independent Obituary
13th March 2003
Singer-songwriter 'who happened to be ill'13 March 2003
singer, songwriter and model:
born London 8 June 1972; died
London 6 March 2003.
Given a specific goal, the human will can for a time overcome the most lethal of diseases. Despite suffering from cystic fibrosis since her birth, the singer-songwriter Alice Martineau managed to record her début album, the haunting Daydreams, which was released in November last year. It was received with great critical acclaim, including comparisons with Björk, the Cranberries, Beth Orton and Dido. "This time next year, everyone will want to own this album," said the Radio 1 presenter Jo Whiley before giving Martineau's first single, "If I Fall", another spin on her lunchtime show in October.
Martineau is the subject of a one-hour television documentary, The Nine Lives of Alice Martineau, to be broadcast by the BBC next month. It should help draw attention to what is Britain's most common genetically inherited disease, affecting the lungs and digestive system.
Born in London in 1972, Martineau grew up in a musical family. Her grandmother was a concert pianist while her uncle, Tom Allom, produced albums by the hard rockers Judas Priest and Def Leppard as well as the Strawbs and the Tourists in the Seventies and Eighties. As a teenager, Martineau decided to have singing lessons:
I always loved singing since I was a little girl, but I thought I wouldn't be able to be a singer because of my breathing problems. But I discovered that I had a powerful voice and that I really could sing. I can play the piano well enough to write on it so I started writing music to go with those words. I have quite a natural ear for music.
Undeterred by the fact that doctors expected her to die from cystic fibrosis in her teens, Martineau excelled at her studies and became a model when she was spotted out shopping by a talent booker who noticed her striking looks and piercing blue eyes. She told Nick Duerden of The Independent last year,
It turned out I was too short to make it a proper career. I'm 5ft 7in so I didn't do any catwalk but I was in a lot of teen mags like Just 17 and Jackie. I love having my
photograph taken. After several hours in make-up, I no longer look the way I did when I first got up in the morning. When I see the results, I'm really pleasantly surprised. I'm not bad-looking!
She gained a first class honours degree in English from King's College London and then went back to modelling, signing up with the Uglies agency which specialises in models with unusual features. She filmed adverts for MTV and appeared on television on Richard & Judy but she kept going back to music. With her elder brother on guitar, she recorded a demo tape which attracted the interest of Robbie Williams's manager David Enthoven, who, although he had too much on his plate with Williams, offered invaluable advice and encouragement.
"It was difficult getting a record deal at first because of my illness. I've had cystic fibrosis since birth and I've become increasingly ill because of it," explained Martineau:
Life expectancy is somewhere in your mid-thirties and I've been on a waiting list for a heart, liver and lung transplant for the last year and a half. I guess that put people off signing me. But I've always been very self-motivated and confident so I carried on and eventually landed a fantastic deal with Epic.
Martineau recorded Daydreams using various producers including Marius DeVries (who has worked with Madonna and Robbie Robertson, and on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack). Despite needing specialist treatment daily, spending long periods of time attached to a machine delivering oxygen to her lungs and fighting diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver – common secondary conditions of cystic fibrosis – she even managed to play the odd gig and shoot a video for "If I Fall".
Rather than simply trying to publicise the release of her album, Martineau used every interview opportunity to stress the need for people to carry donor cards. She said,
There are fewer and fewer transplant operations of any description each year. Not enough people are carrying donor cards, probably because it's something they don't want to think about, and the odds of finding a suitable donor for me are so much greater because I don't just need one vital organ, I need three, and all from the same body. To be honest, that's unlikely to happen now.
Alice Martineau's motto was "Live life to the full":
A lot of people have said "Poor Alice", patting me on the head. I just think, "Oh please!" I hate being called brave, or any mention of that word. The last thing I want is for people to see me as a victim. When they hear the music, I hope people will realise I'm a singer-songwriter who just happens to be ill.