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Updated: Aug 26, 2020

The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is also the most difficult to play, argued Richard Strauss, German composer and conductor of the late Romantic period.

Sharon "Shar" White, a backing singer who has sang  for Joss Stone, Stevie Winwood, Carole King, Pete Townshend, Ringo Starr and a member of Eric Clapton's band for over 17 years, knows this. And she knows this not only because it takes perseverance, hard work, and fortitude to become a singer at a certain level, but also because of the determination that she showed in overcoming obstacles. "In the beginning, to survive, I sang everything: reggae, r&b, rock," she says. "In the end, this allowed me the vocal versatility i have today." Sharon White started singing in a small church in Birmingham, England. She then moved to London where she signed her first recording contract at the age of 18 with Jive Records. "I couldn't even pay my bills. I got pregnant and somehow had to survive and look after my daughter,  I had to become a mother and a father. The only tool and instrument I had and knew was my voice so I started singing background vocals. I realized I was an successful artist when I was able to support my daughter. I bought my first house, Work calls increased and I went from a session singer to singing on world tours and making television appearances". Today Sharon White ( splits her time between London and America, where she lives and where she also sang at the White House in front of  President Obama and his family with Annie Lennox. "Obama was lovely and loved the performance. I still remember the intensity of the secret service. They escorted us down a dark stairway where we were ushered to a waiting room, while the Obamas entered the room and took their seats. Mariah Carey was also in the waiting room pregnant and beautiful" . White sang with Annie Lennox ("A beacon of light, and Bryan Ferry ("Singing with Bryan on stage, is a fashion week feeling every night, he is very particular about his and our clothes"), but the most important encounter was with Eric Clapton. "We met in 2004. I was recording one of his songs, Run, at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London, unfortunately this studio no longer exist. Eric came in with Nathan East (his longtime bassist) and listened while we sang. I was called a second time while in Australia by Eric to be part of his band." To be number one you need to work hard, meticulously and this is the case for every recording with Clapton: "We start at 10am in the morning. I meet the band and head to the studio where we meet Eric. There are greetings, hugs, coffee, tea and food, but as soon as we hear Eric playing the guitar we know it's time to work. Eric at times will give his  input on the vocals, he knows what he wants, but he also gives me room to add something new. During the lunch break, which is usually sushi, we sometimes listen to music from his mobile phone for references etc or just for the fun of it. We usually finish around 3 p.m. or later it really depends on the day. In 18 years this way of working has never changed  "Eric is very precise, constant and disciplined: he has meals at specific times, regardless of the time zone." There is also the human side of one of the most important artists of our times and the difficult moments that Sharon remembers with a vivid emotion "I will always remember a moment where I was going through a difficult period and Eric assured me that if I needed any help he was there. Ive had some difficult times on the road especially when my mother passed away" The last time she performed with Clapton was for the Ginger Baker Tribute, in the presence of Ronnie Wood, Roger Waters, Steve Winwood, Nile Rodgers and other musicians paying tribute to the Cream drummer. "One of the highlights of the evening was watching Kofi Baker, Ginger's son, play a drum solo in honour of his father. When you're on and off stage you almost forget they're rock icons. They're down to the earth like old friends "  White was unable to work with her inspiration Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Prince. "But it was wonderful when Eric paid tribute to Prince at his annual Crossroads Guitar Festival. He played Purple Rain and it's like he fulfilled my dream." Travelling with him has its benefits: "Eric allows us to travel on his jet and there we listen to songs, catch up, Sleep and sometimes discuss songs for the show" There are two albums that Sharon remembers with particular emotion. One is   the live performance at Hyde Park the iconic album’Tapestry’ by Carole King. "Before the official rehearsals, we rehearsed at Carol's house in London, which was very rare. Her songs take you into her world, they make you understand how she felt at this time she’s pure genius." The other record is Eric Clapton's Back Home which contains one of the most intense, sometimes melancholy but at the same time protective pieces of the guitarist, Run Home to Me, where the choir sang  with ecstatic depth "it was great to be part of the ‘Back Home’ album ... I felt a connection of missing home from Eric during the making of this album. So many events, many names, but the best moment of her life was when her mother saw her performing with Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall "She was sitting there in the front row. “For my mother to see where I had come from to seeing me perform with Eric Clapton was wonderful." Sharon has known and knows how to play in an extraordinary way the instrument that is part of herself, that voice that throws out and represents the joys and sorrows of her person. It's like she's carrying a verse of P.Verlaine's Poetic Art " Music, again and again! your verse is the thing that goes away, that you hear fleeing from a soul on the way, to other heavens and other loves" and other sounds (we add)

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