Music

Five Star's Deniece Pearson: 'I kissed Smokey Robinson's lips off'

Deniece Pearson has been celebrating 40 years of Five Star this year. In a Christmassy Music That Made Me, she goes back to where it all started for her – and her siblings

Deniece Pearson Five Star in a bright feather outfit

Deniece Pearson wishes it could be Christmas every day. Photo: PR

Growing up in 1970s Essex, Deniece Pearson and her siblings Stedman, Lorraine, Doris and Delroy were surrounded by music. Their dad, Buster Pearson, had played guitar with Otis Redding, Jimmy Cliff, Wilson Pickett and Desmond Dekker and then ran record labels, before he spotted the talent in his own home. In 1983, the siblings formed the band Five Star – often described as the UK answer to The Jackson 5.

Five Star had four top 20 albums and six top 10 hits in the mid-’80s, including System AddictRain or Shine and The Slightest Touch. In 1987, they won the Brit Award for best British group.

Though they officially disbanded in 1995, they have got back together for partial reunions since. Deniece has also released solo songs; recorded with Bros’s Matt Goss; appeared on The Voice UK; and starred on the West End in Thriller – Live.

She’s spent 2023 celebrating 40 years of Five Star, and recording for her new solo album, due out in early 2024. The first taste comes in the form of Caribbean-tinged Christmas single Santa Claus is Coming. So, in celebration of the festive season, she joined us for a merry trip down memory lane in The Music That Made Me.

Deniece Pearson, Five Star: The Music That Made Me

Kissing the lips off Smokey Robinson

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the music that made me is listening to Smokey Robinson, in our house where we grew up in Romford, Essex. Our home was full of vinyl and full of musical influence from my father, from him playing guitar on the Wilson Pickett tour and working with Desmond Dekker and all these musical greats from the ’60s.

Smokey Robinson was huge influence on me. I met him in Vegas. I had my bustier on and I think he probably thought I was just a fan. My friend was like, ‘This is a Deniece Pearson from Five Star and you influenced her in her career.’ I just couldn’t stop staring at him.

As a teen, I was constantly kissing his album cover until the lips were gone. He’s my guy. He sings with love from his heart. And you can feel it. There’s something in his voice and in his energy that just draws me in.

Elvis movies with the whole family

Elvis was always playing in our house. Mummy is such a huge fan of Elvis and she used to play his albums and we used to listen. Whenever an Elvis movie came on, we all sat together and watched, all seven of us on the sofa. It was amazing. I loved Kissin’ Cousins, when he was blond. Back in the day, I always loved my mind guys blond with blue eyes.

Singing – and smoking – with The Jacksons

I’ve always had this thing inside, this musical ability. It’s a gift. It’s a passion. And then daddy started distributing music. We had tonnes of vinyls in the sitting room, and we were just always scouring through them. We found The Jacksons, The Osmonds, Diana Ross, Crystal Gayle, Michael Jackson. I just started singing to them. Coming home from school, I always used to change from my uniform, grab my guitar, and start writing my little songs.

We used to watch the Jacksons cartoons on TV. Years later, I got to meet the other Jackson brothers on the Unity tour [2012-13] and sing with them. And it was absolutely amazing. Tito smoked these little cigars. So afterwards, I said, ‘Tito, can I have one of your cigars?’ And he said, ‘Oh, OK.’ And I just put it in my mouth and said, ‘Let’s take a picture together.’ I was like, ‘oh my god, I’m standing next to Tito Jackson!’

Faith in George Michael’s beautiful soul

George Michael – he’s another one who sang from his heart. That album, Faith, I rinsed that. I love him. I met him in a restaurant in California and it’s the first time that I ever saw him properly in the light, with the sunglasses off. It’s the first time I saw his gorgeous eyes. He just had this innocence and pureness in his eyes. It’s probably why he wore his glasses, you know? Wow, what a beautiful soul.

Nat King Cole’s regal Christmas

The Christmas Song – “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – by Nat King Cole is my go-to for Christmas. It’s the excellence of the pronunciation and the production of the song. It’s timeless and very classy. When you put that throughout the house, you’ve got those strings and Nat’s voice and it’s just regal. It is a season of giving, when people are at their happiest, and I wish every day was like Christmas.

Santa Claus is Coming by Deniece Pearson is out now. Listen here.

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