Nigel Kennedy collects his bus pass

Nigel Kennedy collects his bus pass


norman lebrecht

September 03, 2021

The bad-boy violinist has broken a long silence with this message:

Ladies, Gentlemen, and other types of people, it’s been a while…
Since the beginning of schlockdown life hasn’t been a total waste of time. I wrote my first book after also having finished writing my first violin concerto ‘Für Ludwig Van’. I played it a few times last month and it went down muvvafukkin killadilla with the orchestras and audiences that I played it for.
I am now (almost) 64 which is a much amusing age. One year away from my bus pass and also in a position to be associated with a song by the most famous band in history. An age which while still having a future also represents a long enough life to have some potentially interesting reminiscences, rich and varied. Starting from the seemingly narrow confines of The Yehudi Menuhin School and The Juilliard School of Artistic Mediocrity luckily things broadened out thereby embracing work with Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Jean Luc Ponty, Stephan Grappelli and of course many of the expected classical interpreters ranging from Yehudi Menuhin to Andre’ Previn.
I have also spent memorable times with the boxing and football fraternities including of course moments with the honourable and great fans and players of the club which originated football as we know it – Aston Villa FC. By Far The Greatest Team, The World Has Ever Seen.
For me memories are not relevant to a book of mine unless they are amusing or confront imbalance. I respect balance as opposed to bullshit and the internal bullshitometer that I developed at a very early age has helped me create a more balanced environment around me, for my friends and colleagues within and outside the music world. The little battles I’ve had with self-appointed wielders of power have been all about that. It’s a crime to let bullshitters of any type spoil our world.
So there is a lot to share but more specifics later!
The “UNCENSORED” book + a 3-CD album will be out on 🎈4th November.


  • Kira Levy says:

    Love how he labels Julliard.

  • Brian says:

    Good to hear from Nigel. I was a huge fan of his and bought nearly every recording as a violin-playing kid.

    I’m a bit irritated by the statement that he wrote his “first book”. Does this mean “Always Playing” was written by a ghostwriter 30 years ago? Just wondering…

  • The View from America says:

    We need our own BS-meter to read through all that.

  • GUEST says:

    I was a grad student at Juilliard when Nigel was there. He was such a nice boy then. Always wore a white shirt and necktie to school. And btw, the school of mediocrity remark seems a bit off, given the alums it’s produced for close to 100 years. But it takes one to know one, as they say.

    • Bostin'Symph says:

      While we love and revere Aston Villa Football Club here in Birmingham, his appraisal of them is wide of the mark. I suspect the same is true with regards to his view of the Juilliard!

      • John F Kelly says:

        Quite right, my bullshittometer went off the minute I read that drivel about Aston Villa. It’s Leeds of course………..

  • Armchair Bard says:

    Nigel, you know that “bullshitometer” of yours…

  • Michael B. says:

    What an overrated poseur. His recording of the Beethoven violin concerto with Tennstedt was by far the worst recording of that work that I have ever heard. Instead of all the pop slop he has been dabbling in, why not play some of the great violin concertos that have been written over the last thirty years or so–Ligeti, Norgard, Adams, and so forth?

  • Dimsky says:

    “…..muuvafukkin killidilla…..”?! Channeling his inner James Ellroy maybe?

  • Marfisa says:


    “One year away from my bus pass …”

  • Couperin says:

    Conceited hack, nice career though.

  • Maria says:

    Good for him. He has brought clsssical violin and orchestral music to many who wouldn’t otherwise have bothered, not least Last Night of the Proms in 2013.

    • Freewheeler says:

      Maybe they shouldn’t have bothered.

    • Matias says:

      Do you have any evidence for that?

      It is always assumed that when someone like Kennedy adopts a ‘down with the lads’ stance, and gets additional exposure as a result, it must introduce more people to classical music. No evidence is ever produced.

      Does it occur to anyone that he might actually put people off, particularly as his change of accent was clearly an affectation and widely ridiculed at the time (see film of his early years)?

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Nigel Kennedy and Russell Brand; same schtick, same pretenses. OK, why bovva?

        Nobody has ever explained to me why so many English speak so very badly; woh-eva, anyfink, me bruvva. (Surely GBS was onto something!)

        We might have prison guards running Australia but at least they can speak coherently.

        • Ashu says:

          [Nobody has ever explained to me why so many English speak so very badly; woh-eva, anyfink, me bruvva.]

          The same reason people speak so very badly everywhere, according to unthinking snobs who ignorantly assume that the narrow standard form of a language is somehow objectively more true than its vast, multifarious reality.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      So he actually does share something in common with Andre Rieu, except the latter is a lot more classy, even with the mullet haircut.

  • Pianoman says:

    Much ado about nothing ! Who needs his kind when there are so many finer players out there without mental problems and airs of grandiosity.

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    I respect Nigel’s goal to be a disrupter but it’s a shame that he went about it all in such a scatter-shot and offensive way. He has (had) the talent to make it work and he had the charm when he cared to use it. He could have done a world of good for classical music but he chose to be self-involved and obnoxious.

  • Mike Adams says:

    Nigel is a week younger than me, born on 28 December 1956 (wiki). So he is actually nearly 65. If this is an old quote and was nearly 64, not 65, he would have had two years to wait for his bus pass, as his state pension age will be 66.

  • Rabengeraun says:

    As John Drummond put it in his autobiography, “Nige” (as he liked to call himself several re-incarnations ago) developed his ghastly “Aston Villa-supporting lager-lout persona as a direct reaction to the cosy world of the Menuhin school” – conveniently forgetting nobody outside an upper-middle class background has ever got anywhere in the world of classical music. What a twat.

  • Freewheeler says:

    Ta, but I’ll stick with Menuhin.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Sadly for Nigel, he will have to wait two years for his bus pass. Currently it is issued at the age of 66, and will be for him. I have checked on his behalf. Perhaps someone can let him know. He can then draw the State Pension then.

    Perhaps someone could let him know.

  • Peter says:

    People are complex and contradictory.
    Being outstanding in one area does not mean someone is necessarily outstanding in others.
    When Nigel Kennedy plays, he can do amazing things, and I am interested to hear it.
    When he speaks, he has very little of interest to say. Other than perhaps from an anthropological perspective.
    Don’t blame him for that – his playing has created more good for the world than anything I or most other SD readers have done.

    We spend too much time complaining that great musicians are not great people in every other aspect of their life. Why should they be ? Lets just celebrate a touch of greatness when we see it.

  • David Rowley says:

    He’s going to be disappointed. Current bus pass age in England is 66.

  • Rubio Maximus says:

    Having been someone who has had the honor and privilege of performing with Mr. Kennedy a few times, I am here to let all of the peanut gallery here (who love to pontificate on an artists ability without providing any of their own merits) that he is one of the most sincerely committed, cerebral and enlightening instrumentalists I have ever worked with. Yes, the brash exterior can certainly rub people the wrong way sometimes, but as soon as that fiddle touches his chin, he transforms into another being. Totally involved and committed to the performance in hand. It’s remarkable to witness and I only wish that these ‘commenters’ had the ability to understand that to create amazing art/music/literature, it does sometimes take someone who is a square peg in a round hole.

    As my mum always said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

    • Dragonetti says:

      A message to Rubio from the peanut gallery, whatever that is.
      I too played under Mr Kennedy albeit only once and quite a few years ago. He was pleasant and helpful in rehearsal. Come the show, he appeared in a long, black coat, strange hat and face makeup like a corpse. He played the Elgar as well as or better than I have heard it, before or since.
      Would it have been as good if he wore white tie and tails? Yes. If he’d worn smart casual like black open neck shirt etc? Yes.
      So why this need to shock? He is now so far off the rails as to be almost disregarded as a serious player.
      My remarks below still stand. I wish he could see himself as others see him. Such a shame. And I still blame the earlier ‘ hothousing’. Genius alone is not enough to make a rounded human being. He could have been so much more.

    • Monty Earleman says:

      Rubio, my mum always said “If you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit by me!”…..

  • MacGiolla says:

    Never missed him–his Four Seasons is a complete mediocrity–actually thought someone abducted him!

  • Dragonetti says:

    Agree with the comments about his sudden conversion to mockney. An affectation. His playing can be superb. It can also be mediocre in the extreme, especially when in improvising mode. He’s simply not terribly good at it.
    Also you don’t need to dress like a zombie or a tramp to kick over the traces against the old school expectation of formal dress. Plenty of others have shown the way there. Equally, you can venture further afield musically and do it with integrity. How about e.g. Yo Yo Mar and Edgar Meyer? They knock Kennedy into a cocked hat there.
    Is the real problem the fact that he was let loose too young after Menuhin School and was probably surrounded by sycophants anxious to use him to make a few quid? It’s a tough world and hardly surprising that mental health suffers in such situations.

  • fflambeau says:

    Why push this rude idiot who is obviously touting a book that no one will read?

    I once attended a concert in Honolulu that featured him in the first half. In the second, a man in front of me was making an awful racket with his girlfriend. I coughed, then nudged him to no reaction. Finally, I said out loud, “shut up, you are interfering with the music”. He turned around and it was none other than Nigel Kennedy. You’d think he would know better.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    …and other types of people???!!!

    You don’t mean the uncouth bovver-boy types?

  • Jim C. says:

    David Hurwitz had a funny line about him the other day. Something like, “Remember him? Who even thinks about him any more?”