Antony and the Johnsons are a Mercury Prize-winning music act from New York City, New York, United States. The band is fronted by Antony
(real name Antony Hegarty) who was born in 1971 and identifies as a transgender person.
During the mid 90s
Antony started solo; after originally producing songs with Blacklips Performance Cult and other late-night cabarets he had a number of songs to work with. In 1995 he assembled a backing group—the self-styled Antony and the Johnsons—and began to focus on the musical side of his performances. The group built up a cult following at hip New York clubs such as the Kitchen and Knitting Factory. Antony then received a NYFA for “performance art/emergent forms” which he used to record the Johnsons' debut album “Blue Angel”, that remained unreleased until Current 93
leader David Tibet
signed Antony and the Johnsons to his Durtro label. The cast list of musicians on the album, released under the title "Antony and the Johnsons" in 1998, included Baby Dee
(harp), Francois Gehin (bass), Todd Cohen (drums), Charles Neilson (guitar), and a number of string and woodwind players. This album later were reissued in 2000 and in 2004 by Secretly Canadian.
This collection of modern torch songs highlighted Antony's soulful, multi-octave vocals and the Johnsons' graceful chamber pop
arrangements, reaching a peak on "Cripple And The Starfish" and "Divine", the latter a tribute to the late transvestite movie star. Further recordings by Antony and the Johnsons emerged in the early years of the new millennium, including "I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy
" and a shared EP “Live at St. Olave's” with Current 93
, recorded live at Saint Olave's Church in London, England.
In early 2001 released 3 song EP "I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy
", included covers of Mysteries of Love
(Appeared originally on the film Blue Velvet) and Soft Black Stars
Split EP included two new songs from the Johnsons, the first being You Stand Above Me
, only one minute and thirty-six seconds long but containing all the melancholy and drama one would expect from the Johnsons. The other new track was The Lake
which was an 1827 poem written by Edgar Allan Poe
beautifully adapted to song. The Johnsons appear with Current 93 again on a 7”, with side B including the song Virgin Mary
. This was limited to 500 copies, both released May 12th, 2003. By now the line-up of the Johnsons featured Todd Cohen, Jeff Langston (bass), Jason Hart
(piano), Julia Kent
(cello), Joan Wasser
(violin), and Maxim Moston
It was around this time that Lou Reed
heard the “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy” EP. Reed then recruited Antony for his album The Raven
for guest vocals and took her on tour in 2003 which meant that Antony appeared on Lou’s live album Animal Serenade
. With the band now attracting wider attention, Antony and the Johnsons signed to US based label Secretly Canadian
. Secretly Canadian then reissued the band's debut to a wider audience in the USA.
was released the following year through the new label. It’s another 3 song EP including "The Lake" - Lou Reed
appeared on Fistful of Love
with guest vocals and guitar. The Horror Has Gone
seems to be Antony expressing the end of a depressing phase in his life, a positive lyrical change from his debut style.
In February 2005 Antony and the Johnsons released their second full length, I Am A Bird Now
. It has guest appearances from Rufus Wainwright
, Devendra Banhart
, Lou Reed
and Boy George
. It went on to receive great critical acclaim in the UK and won Antony the Technics Mercury Music Prize for 2005.
In 2006 Antony appeared in the Leonard Cohen
tribute concert and subsquent film "I'm Your Man." His perfromance of "If It Be Your Will" is perhaps the highlight of the film.
The 5-song Another World EP was released on October 7, 2008. As promised, it shows a mixture of continuation of earlier songs' atmosphere as well as more experimental work. Antony and the Johnsons' third album, "The Crying Light", was released on January 19, 2009. This was followed by "Swanlights" in October, 2010. Both of these latter albums are less melodic and more experimental in nature the Antony's earler work and have met with critical acclaim yet little commercial success.