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Finley Quaye is a grandson of vaudeville pianist Caleb Quaye. He is the youngest son of jazz musician Cab Kaye, the half-brother of guitarist Caleb Quaye, and half-brother of jazz musician and ethno-musicologist Terri Quaye. He is the father of Theodore Turgoose and of the bassist Caleb Quaye.
Born in Edinburgh, Quaye went to school in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. However, he left school with no qualifications. Before making records he took employment spraying cars, smoking fish, making futons and as a stage-rigger and scaffolder.
His father was born in London, but considered himself as African. Although known as Cab Kaye, his full name was Nii Lante Augustus Kwamlah Quaye and he was a Chief of the Ga tribe centralized in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana. Kaye was the son of the pianist Caleb Jonas Quaye a.k.a. Mope Desmond, who was born in Accra, Ghana. Finley did not grow up with his father and only found out, in his twenties, about his father's history as a musician. Mope Desmond, Cab Kaye and Finley Quaye have all played Glasgow's Barrowlands, Wolverhampton's Wulfrun Hall and London's Cafe de Paris. Finley was on tour with his band when he met his father for the first time in Amsterdam.
Finley Quaye was inspired early on in his childhood by jazz musicians Pete King, Ronnie Scott, who started his musical career making tea and running errands in Finley's father's band, and Lionel Hampton. Quaye heard jazz as a child, living in London with his mother, who would take him with her to Ronnie Scott's jazz club to catch performances of American jazz musicians touring Europe such as Buddy Rich, who recorded his live album there in 1980. Quaye's mother had long term relationships with musician Pete King, who hosted and performed at Ronnie Scott's club in Frith Street, London, as well as Dodi Fayed, a film producer who produced Breaking Glass with Hazel O'Connor.
In April 2012, Quaye was charged with aggravated assault in Edinburgh. He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 225 hours of unpaid work. In November of the same year, he was declared bankrupt with a tax debt of 383,000 after HMRC applied to the courts to recover the money. Official documents stated that Quaye had "zero assets".
Quaye made a solo recording contract with Polydor Records and moved to New York City. He began working with Epic/Sony when Polydor let him out of contract, and in late 1997 he reached the UK Top 20 twice, with "Sunday Shining" and "Even After All". His reputation was established by Maverick A Strike, released in September 1997. It went gold less than three weeks later, and led directly to the BRIT Award victory. The album is now certified multi platinum. In 1998, Quaye performed George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot Rhapsody, a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.
Two more albums were released on Epic, Vanguard (2000) and Much More Than Much Love (2004). "Spiritualized" became his last single to score a top 40 landing in the UK chart when it was released in September 2000, reaching number 26. In 2004 the single "Dice" was released in collaboration with William Orbit and featuring Beth Orton. The song featured in Fox Network's The OC and on the season 1 soundtrack, becoming a minor hit.
He released the EP "Pound for Pound" with Intune Records in 2008, with Norman Grant of the Twinkle Brothers featuring Sly Dunbar and Lloyd Parks. He recorded in 1998 with Buju Banton and Sly Dunbar in Kingston, Jamaica at Penthouse Studios and also recorded with Tricky and Iggy Pop at Sony Music Studios, in Manhattan, New York City.
Quaye performed with his band at the Roxy in LA and at SOB's in NYC, as an introductory tour in 1998. They played alongside Ben Harper and Eagle Eye Cherry, they also played San Francisco. He recorded most of Maverick A Strike at Fire House Studios in NYC in 1994 whilst signed to Polydor. Over the past 20 years he has based himself in NYC, Miami and in Los Angeles. He has played at Rio Free Jazz Festival alongside The Roots in Rio de Janeiro and So Paulo. He has also performed as the first UK band to headline a festival in Hong Kong at Rockit Festival. Quaye was the first UK act to play a festival in Serbia at EXIT festival and performed live at Vancouver Folk Festival and Star Belly Jam in 2010. He also performed in France at L'Elyse;e Montmartre, La Grand Halle De La Villette, Le Bataclan and La Cigale, and in Germany at Columbia Halle in Berlin and E Werks in Kln. Quaye has also performed at Music Box in Lisbon and supported Julian Marley in Cascais and toured South Africa twice, performing in Limpopo, Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
At Madness' 1998 outdoor event, Madstock IV (billed as a pre-1998 World Cup "friendly"), Quaye was due to perform for around 40 minutes but, after making derisory statements concerning the England football squad's likely performance in the competition, he was jeered off-stage by the partisan crowd after only 20 minutes and did not return.
Quaye's videos were shot in Africa, the United Kingdom and in Trinidad.