Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong (//; born 25 December 1971), known as Dido, is a British singer-songwriter. Dido attained international success with her debut album No Angel (1999). The album sold over 21 million copies worldwide, and won several awards; including the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act, two NRJ Awards for Best New Act and Best Album, and two Brit Awards for Best British Female and Best Album. Her next album Life for Rent (2003), continued her success with the hit singles “White Flag” and “Life for Rent”.
Dido was born at St Mary Abbots hospital in Kensington, London, on Christmas Day 1971. On her birth certificate, her name was registered as Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong. Because she was born on Christmas Day, she also celebrates an “official birthday” on 25 June, following the example of Paddington Bear. Her mother, Clare (née Collins), is a poet, and her father, William O’Malley Armstrong, was an Irish publisher and former managing director of Sidgwick & Jackson. Her elder brother, Rowland Constantine O’Malley Armstrong, is better known as record producer Rollo, part of the British electronica trio Faithless. Despite their birth names, the pair were known from childhood by the names that are famous now – Dido and Rollo. Dido has made it clear that “Dido” is now her real name and not simply a stage name or nickname. Her name derives from that of the mythical Queen of Carthage. As a child, she had to deal with its ambiguous and unusual nature, which led to her being bullied and even to her pretending to have an ordinary name.As she explains:
To be called one thing and christened another is actually very confusing and annoying. It’s one of the most irritating things that my parents did to me. … Florian is a German man’s name. That’s just mean. To give your child a whole lot of odd names. They were all so embarrassing. … I thought it was cruel to call me Dido and then expect me to just deal with it.
—Dido, Interview published in The Observer in 2001
Dido was educated at Thornhill Primary School in Islington, Dallington School, City of London Girls’ and Westminster School where she was taught by the contemporary musician and Head of Academic Music, Sinan Savaskan. After she stole a recorder from school at the age of five, her parents enrolled her at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. By the time she reached her teens she had learned to play the piano, recorder and the violin. She later studied law at Birkbeck, University of London, while working as a literary agent. She never completed the degree, deciding instead to take up music full-time. After learning the guitar, she showcased her skills to audiences during her 2004 Life for Rent tour.
Dido’s first two albums are among the best-selling albums in UK Chart history, and both are in the top 10 best-selling albums of the 2000s in the UK. Her third studio album Safe Trip Home (2008), received critical acclaim but failed to duplicate the commercial success of her previous efforts. She was nominated for an Academy Award for the song “If I Rise”. Dido was ranked No. 98 on the Billboard chart of the top Billboard 200 artists of the 2000s (2000–2009) based on the success of her albums in the first decade of the 21st century. Dido made a comeback in 2013, releasing her fourth studio album Girl Who Got Away, which reached the Top 5 in the United Kingdom.
In 1995, Dido began recording demo tracks which were put together on a collection entitled Odds & Ends and sent out by Nettwerk management. Nettwerk had signed her after she was brought to their attention by her collaborations with Faithless, the UK dance act spearheaded by her brother, Rollo Armstrong (Dido co-wrote and provided vocals for album tracks, such as “Flowerstand Man” and “Hem of His Garment”). The collection was released by Nettwerk on CD-R acetate in 1995 and featured a mixture of finished productions and demo versions which she later considered for release on her debut album, released in 1999 as No Angel. Odds & Ends brought her to the attention of A&R Peter Edge at Arista Records, who signed her in the USA in late 1996, and negotiated a co-sign deal with her brother’s independent record label, Cheeky Records. Of the tracks included on Odds & Ends, “Take My Hand” was included on all editions of No Angel as a bonus track; “Sweet Eyed Baby” was remixed and renamed to “Don’t Think of Me”, while “Worthless” and “Me” were released exclusively on the Japanese edition. Peter Leak became Dido’s manager during the recording of No Angel after Edge played some of the in-progress recordings and been “blown away” by them.
Cheeky Records, to which Dido was signed, was sold to BMG records in 1999. This delayed the release of the album No Angel in the United Kingdom, but also allowed her to concentrate on promoting No Angel in the United States, including a slot on Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour. Through touring, both before and after the album was available, Dido’s music began to receive more exposure. The first official single chosen by Dido and her label, “Here with Me”, initially struggled to make an impact on radio, but while the label were considering switching to an alternative track, the song made a breakthrough as a result of its use in television program Roswell. The song was used as the theme music of the show, but it was actually when it was played in its entirety during the season finale that it really made an impact with audiences. Manager Peter Leak told HitQuarters that sales jumped from 2,000 to 9,000 units during the week of the show’s transmission. Arguably it was this, as well as the airplay on MTV throughout Europe of the single’s video, which brought her mass attention. Subsequently the song was used in a British romantic comedy Love Actually.
In 1998, the music producer for the film Sliding Doors picked her track “Thank You” for the soundtrack. No Angel was first released in 1999, and Dido toured extensively to promote the record.
American rapper Eminem helped introduce Dido to a US audience in 2001 when he received permission from Dido herself to sample the first verse of “Thank You” in his hit single “Stan”. Dido also appeared in the music video as Stan’s pregnant girlfriend. She did not want to do the video at first, as she was uncomfortable with the scene in the video where she had to be tied up and have her mouth covered with duct tape, but later agreed to it and got along well with Eminem and the crew on set. In North America, the video usually aired with the trunk scene censored. Interest soared in her debut album, leading it to hit charts in Europe on import sales alone, charting in the top five on the UK albums chart before its official UK re-release. “Thank You” was also sampled by the Airheadz in their trance track “Stanley Here I Am” originally as a bootleg, but later entering the UK Top 40 in April 2001.
No Angel went on to become the top-selling album of 2001 – both in the United Kingdom and worldwide, debuting at, and returning to, number one in the official UK albums chart many times throughout the year. It spawned two Top Ten hit singles, “Here with Me” and “Thank You”, a further Top Twenty hit, “Hunter” and a fourth and final single release “All You Want” which reached the top 25. It was certified platinum in over thirty-five countries, and is estimated to have sold over 21 million copies worldwide. It is the second biggest selling album of the 21st century in the UK. Dido’s widely emulated hairstyle at this time became known as the “Dido flip”. Her sold-out worldwide tour featured hip-hop artist Pete Miser as her live band’s DJ. No Angel claimed No. 97 according the Decade-end album chart by Billboard.
Life for Rent was released in 2003. Preceded by the hit single “White Flag”, the album sold over 152,000 copies in the first day alone in the UK, and went on to sell over 400,000 in the first week. Three further singles—”Life for Rent”, “Don’t Leave Home” and “Sand in My Shoes”—were lifted from the album, with Dido embarking on a worldwide tour in support of the album (a DVD of footage from the tour was released in 2005 entitled Live at Brixton Academy). It is the 4th biggest selling album of the 21st century in the UK.
Following her sold-out world tour of 2004, Dido was asked to perform at three of the Live 8 concerts on 2 July 2005—performing in London, then at the Eden Project in Cornwall, before flying over to Paris, performing both solo (“White Flag”) and duetting with Youssou N’Dour (“Thank You” and “Seven Seconds”).
Also in 2005, Dido provided vocals for her brother’s side project Dusted on the album Safe from Harm. She sings on the tracks: “Time Takes Time”, “Hurt U” and “Winter” and she co-wrote three tracks on the album: “Always Remember to Respect & Honour Your Mother, Part 1”, “The Biggest Fool in the World” and “Winter”.
Dido started working on her third album in October 2005 in Los Angeles. The album was produced by Jon Brion and Dido herself. Collaborators include Brian Eno, Questlove, Mick Fleetwood, Rollo Armstrong and Matt Chamberlain. Recording sessions were held at London’s Abbey Road and at Jon Brion’s home studio in Los Angeles. During production of the album, Dido attended evening classes in music and English at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dido’s official website was relaunched to coincide with the release of the album. The release of the album was postponed several times, though no official reason was given. The first single from the album, “Don’t Believe in Love”, leaked to the Internet on 5 September 2008, was made available digitally on 27 October 2008. The album was leaked to the internet on 1 November 2008, some 16 days before its official launch date. On 13 November 2008, the album was available for a world premier listening at iLike, (now MySpace).
On 22 August 2008, Dido’s official website confirmed that the album was to be entitled Safe Trip Home, with the official release date of 17 November 2008. A free song from the album, “Look No Further” was made available to download from the site for a limited time. Other songs included on the album are: “It Comes And It Goes”, “The Day Before the Day”, “Never Want To Say It’s Love” and “Grafton Street”. The latter was composed in collaboration with Brian Eno. The album cover features a photograph of astronaut Bruce McCandless II during a spacewalk, as part of space shuttle mission STS-41-B.
I recorded my vocals next to the hoover in Jon’s broom cupboard. It was so small, there wasn’t even room for a guitar: I got quite addicted to singing in there.
—Dido, Interview in Q magazine.
In December 2008, Dido’s song “Let’s Do The Things We Normally Do”, was criticised by Gregory Campbell, MP for East Londonderry and Minister for Sports, Arts and Leisure for Northern Ireland, for referencing lyrics from a song, “The Men Behind the Wire” which was written in the aftermath of the introduction of detention without trial for persons accused of being members of paramilitary groups. Campbell described “The Men Behind the Wire” as “written about people who were murderers, arsonists and terrorists”. Campbell suggested “she [Dido] should clarify her position so that her fans and the wider public knows where she stands on these things”. The album failed to sell as well as her previous efforts, but it was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. In October 2010, former NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless sued Dido for possible unauthorised use of a photo of his 1984 space flight for the album art of Safe Trip Home, which showed McCandless “free flying” about 320 feet away from the space shuttle Challenger. The lawsuit – which also named Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment and Getty Images Inc. as defendants – does not allege copyright infringement, only infringement of his persona.
Dido revealed shortly after the release of Safe Trip Home that she had been in the studio recording new material, slated for inclusion on her fourth studio album. In July 2009, Dido claimed that the album would have an electronic approach, in an attempt to take it in a totally different direction to her previous albums. In September 2010, Dido unveiled her brand new single, “Everything to Lose”, and the track was released via digital download, having previously appeared on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack. In January 2011, Dido unveiled a second brand new track, “If I Rise”, teaming up with producer A.R. Rahman for the track, for which an official music video was released.
Dido announced via her official website that the recording of the album had taken place in both London and California, and that some of the material had been recorded in her own hotel room, with a keyboard and a microphone. She also described the album as a “big, fun, electronic extravaganza”. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Dido revealed that the album will feature production from Rollo Armstrong, Sister Bliss, Lester Mendez, A. R. Rahman, Rick Nowels, Greg Kurstin, Brian Eno and Jeff Bhasker, and that the album is on the verge of being completed. She also revealed that the album’s title track would be a collaboration with drummer Ash Soan. On 2 November 2012, Dido posted a picture on her official Twitter account, announcing the album has been completed. Shortly after, it was revealed that popular British Britpop duo Rizzle Kicks had contributed vocals to one of the new songs on the album. It was later revealed by the duo that the track had been recorded two years ago, shortly after they released their debut single, “Down with the Trumpets”, and that they were unsure if the track would make the final tracklisting of the album. Dido announced the title of the album on 8 November 2012, revealing its title to be Girl Who Got Away, after one of the tracks on the album. On the same day, Dido’s official website was relaunched to feature details of the new album. Dido revealed the album’s tracklisting on 10 December 2012. Dido’s record label, Sony Music Entertainment, released the album on 4 March 2013 in Europe and on 26 March 2013 in North America. “No Freedom” was released as the album’s lead single on 18 January 2013.
n addition to her solo work, Dido has co-written and provided vocals for tracks with Faithless, including “One Step Too Far”—which was released in the UK as a limited edition single, where it debuted at number six—and “No Roots”, the title track of the fourth Faithless album. Rollo—Dido’s brother—co-writes and co-produces much of Dido’s solo material, including many tracks on No Angel, Life for Rent and Safe Trip Home.
She provided guest vocals for each of the six studio albums by Faithless, from 1996’s Reverence to 2010s The Dance. Dido worked with her brother on a CD to accompany the children’s book he wrote with Jason White, Safe from Harm; the CD is also titled Safe from Harm and the artist is listed as “Dusted”. She co-wrote Britney Spears’s worldwide number one hit “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”, soundtrack feature track to Spears’s first major film debut.
In 2006, she re-released the song “Christmas Day”, although it failed to chart in the UK. This had appeared originally on a 2001 EP of “All You Want” (a song from No Angel).
Dido has provided guest vocals to tracks by other artists including “Feels Like Fire” for Carlos Santana’s 2002 album, Shaman, and a duet with Rufus Wainwright entitled “I Eat Dinner (When the Hunger’s Gone)” for the Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason film soundtrack. A sample of the Dido track “Do You Have a Little Time” is used on the song “Don’t You Trust Me?” by Tupac, on the album “Loyal to the Game”, which was almost entirely produced by Eminem in 2004.
Annie Lennox has joined forces with Dido and 22 other female artists to raise awareness of the issue of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to unborn children in Africa. The single “Sing” was released on World Aids Day on 1 December 2007, in conjunction with Annie Lennox’s appearance at the Nelson Mandela 46664 concert in South Africa.
In 2010, “Everything to Lose”, was featured on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack. The song was written by Dido in her country house where she is recording her fourth album, which will have an electronic approach.
Also in 2010, Dido appears on the score of 127 Hours, a thriller film directed by Danny Boyle. The soundtrack features a mix of electric guitars with orchestral arrangements and sound loops. A.R. Rahman, composer, and Dido recorded a song together called “If I Rise” which is featured in the climax of the film. The song was nominated for Satellite Award, Houston Film Critics Society Awards and Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award, and has been nominated for the 83rd Academy Award for Original Song. It won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Song. A music video of “If I Rise”, featuring Dido and A. R. Rahman was also released on 17 February.
After releasing No Angel in 1999, and after much time spent promoting the album, Dido broke up with her fiancé, entertainment lawyer Bob Page, after a seven-year relationship. Dido married Rohan Gavin in 2010. They have one son, Stanley, who was born in July 2011.
Listen to some of her songs below