For a relatively small county, East Sussex packs well above its punch for famous faces, with a long list of celebrities born, raised and/or living there. But what about musicians hailing from East Sussex?
Here too, the list runs long, with an eclectic mix of talents from all music genres across the ages. We’ve put together our picks and created the Beside the Sea local-musicalpedia. And in all but one case, we’ve included a video so you can listen and see if you agree.
Best earliest musician from East Sussex – Nicholas Yonge
We pop right back to the mid-16th century when Yonge was born in Lewes. He became famous as a singer of Italian madrigals, particularly his compilation of Musica transalpina in 1588. He died in 1619 and you can see a statue in Lewes commemorating his vocal talent.
A nugget of trivia: Yonge set a trend for madrigals in England that lasted well into the 1620s.
Best violinist from East Sussex – Isolde Menges
Menges was born in Hove in 1893 and rose to be one of the country’s top violinists. She formed the Menges Quartet in 1931 and gave stellar performances throughout Europe and North America.
A nugget of trivia: Menges performed one of her first big concerts in Darmstadt, Germany when she was just 14 years old.
This video – forgive the slightly scratchy sound – is Menges playing Poem by Czech composer Fibich in the 1920s.
The best soundtrack in the world? Waves gently breaking on the sandy shore.
Best big band musician from East Sussex – Ray Noble
Noble, born in Brighton in 1903, enjoyed a successful career as a jazz and big band musician, actor and comedian. After a brief but busy stint in London, he moved to the US where his success lasted for several decades and included acting in major movies as well as musical hits.
A nugget of trivia: Noble’s song, Goodnight Sweetheart, was used on the original Star Trek TV series in The City on the Edge of Forever episode.
In the video, the Ray Noble Orchestra accompanies Al Bowlly in Noble’s big hit, The Very Thought of You, in 1934.
Best classical composer from East Sussex – Ruth Gipps
Gipps hailed from Bexhill-on-Sea where she was born in 1921. Her musical talents led her to compose five symphonies, seven concertos and numerous choral pieces. Not only that, but her musical talents extended to the oboe and piano.
A nugget of trivia: Gipps became the youngest British women to receive a doctorate in music when she was 26.
In the video, ROCO’s in Concert play Gipps’ Seascape for double wind quintet.
Best 1970s pop musician hailing from East Sussex – Leo Sayer
Famous for a string of hits (and big hair), Sayer was born in Shoreham in 1948. He began his career in the early 1970s and reached his pinnacle in 1977 when he had two consecutive number ones in both the UK and US with You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and When I Need you.
A nugget of trivia: nowadays, Sayer couldn’t be further from his East Sussex roots since he Down Under and has been an Australian citizen since 2009.
In the video, Sayer performs The Show Must Go On in full Pierrot costume in 1974.
East Sussex is also fertile ground for movies.
Best resident musician in East Sussex – Paul McCartney
Obviously not hailing from the county, but Sir Paul has lived in East Sussex for so long he could almost be a native. His farm in Peasmarsh near Rye has been his home since the late 1970s and he has a studio nearby.
A nugget of trivia: McCartney’s studio includes a windmill that was moved to Icklesham in 1790 where it turned the millstones until 1920.
The video below showcases Pretty Boys, one of the songs on the album McCartney III, composed in East Sussex in 2020.
Best ska musician from East Sussex – Suggs
Aka as Graham McPherson, Suggs was born in Hastings in 1961 and went on to form Madness, one of ska’s best-known groups in the 1970s and early 1980s. He later turned his attention to acting and radio presenting.
A nugget of trivia: Suggs chose his nickname by sticking a pin into the entry for Peter Suggs in an encyclopaedia of jazz musicians.
Best Britpop glam rock musician from East Sussex – Brett Anderson
Born in Lindfield in 1967, Anderson rose to glam rock fame in 1989 when he headed Suede. The group’s debut album hit number one in 1993, signalling a tumultuous decade for the group. Anderson left and later formed The Tears.
Nugget of trivia: Anderson described Suede’s history as “like a pram that’s just been pushed down a hill and it never stops”.
We know Camber Sands will be music to your ears – book your holiday cottage and listen up during your stay.
Best post-Britpop alternative rock band from East Sussex – Keane
Hailing from Battle and founded in 1995, Keane are perhaps best known for their keyboard-led music – few guitar riffs here. Their 2004 debut album, Hopes and Fears brought us singalong belters such as Bend & Break and This Is The Last Time.
Nugget of trivia: You can do the Keane Trail around Battle to follow in the footsteps of the various band members.
In the video, Keane performs an acoustic version of the single Somewhere Only We Know.
Best pop musician hailing from East Sussex – Natasha Bedingfield
The singer-songwriter was born in Haywards Heath in 1981 and has gone on to become one of the biggest female vocalists in the UK. Her debut album, Unwritten, was an instant hit in 2004 and VH1 placed her in 66th place in the 100 Greatest Women in Music.
Nugget of trivia: Bedingfield now lives in Los Angeles and released a new album in 2019 after more than a decade of silence.
In the video, Bedingfield sings Single, one of her ‘anthems’.
Best blues, R&B, hip hop musician hailing from East Sussex – Rag ‘n’ Bone Man
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, AKA Rory Charles Graham, is the singer songwriter from Uckfield who encompasses a wide of range of genres. His debut album, Human, released in 2016, was a smash hit around the world and won the BBC Music Award for British Album of the Year in 2017.
Nugget of trivia: Graham co-wrote and sang Broken People for the soundtrack to Will Smith’s film, Bright.
In the video, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man sings his biggest hit, Human.
Discover this world of music for yourself
When you take a holiday in East Sussex you’ll find musical delights on your doorstep. Book one of our holiday cottages and who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired and become the next best musician hailing from East Sussex!