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Antony Hegarty's Otherworldly Sound

Antony Hegarty performs at the Royal Albert Hall on March 28, 2006.
Jo Hale
/
Getty Images
Antony Hegarty performs at the Royal Albert Hall on March 28, 2006.

Antony Hegarty, lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons, has a striking sound — his singing has often been compared to Nina Simone's.

Music writer John Hodgman once described Hegarty's voice as "somewhere between male and female, between childish innocence and weary adulthood, at once ethereal and earthy," while Chicago Reader critic Noah Berlatsky writes that he "frames his soaring, throbbing, mannered, and decidedly androgynous voice with complex chamber-music arrangements. ... [But he] doesn't do winking flamboyance or irony — his music is earnestly, languidly, overwhelmingly romantic."

The androgynous singer, who spent his childhood in southern England and got his musical start in the drag bars of New York's East Village, has worked with Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed. In 2005, he and his ensemble won Britain's most prestigious music award, the Mercury Prize.

He joins Terry Gross to talk about his varied career, and about Antony and the Johnsons' new CD, The Crying Light.

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