James Blunt

Despite James Blunt's assertion that the rest of his clan have "not a musical bone in their bodies", the singing soldier proved an exception to the rule when he shot to fame with the ubiquitous love song You're Beautiful.

Born James Hillier Blount on February 22, 1974, in a military hospital in Tidworth, Wiltshire, the singer-songwriter seemed destined to pursue a career in the Army, like his colonel father. Sent to boarding school at seven he went on to study at elite Harrow before gaining an Army-sponsored place at Bristol University to study Engineering and Sociology. After completing training at Sandhurst military academy something he describes as a "pretty miserable experience" he entered the Household Cavalry as an officer, going on to serve in the Balkans, an experience which would inspire his song No Bravery.

Despite following in his father's footsteps, music was James" primary passion. The young officer, who"d got hooked after picking up a friend's guitar at age 14, even strapped a guitar to the side of his tank in Kosovo and helped boost morale by singing to his men. After four years in the Army he quit to pursue a career in the music business, signing with EMI Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter and changing his surname from Blount to Blunt.

His big break came in 2004 during a performance at the Texas South By Southwest Music Festival. He was talent-spotted by Linda Perry, the writer and producer behind Christina Aguilera, Pink and many of Britney Spears' hits, who immediately offered him a contract with her Custard Records label. James headed for Los Angeles, where he penned his first album Back To Bedlam.

The first single off the album, High, peaked below the Top 100 in the UK singles chart, although it entered the Top ten in Italy where it featured in a mobile phone ad. When his second offering, Wisemen, made it to number 44 Elton John invited him to play support on his 2004 tour. But it was James' third single, You're Beautiful, which would change his life.

The song - written after the singer saw his ex-girlfriend on a train with a new man - received huge airplay in the UK, propelling his album to the top of the charts and making the track the biggest hit of summer 2005. You're Beautiful also made James the first British artist in nearly a decade to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat previously accomplished in 1997 by Elton with Candle In The Wind.

It's not just his music which he describes as "very personal songs about specific instances in my life" that have made headlines. His love-life has, too. After breaking up with girlfriend Camilla Boler he briefly dated socialite Tara Palmer Tomkinson before romancing stunning Czech model Petra Nemcova. The pair met in December 2005 and started dating the following year, but in March 2007 they parted ways. Since then he's been linked to a string of Tinseltown starlets.

Becoming a pop star hasn't been an easy road for James who admits to being self- conscious about his privileged background. "It's raised every step of the way," he says of his education. "It's interesting how people talk about the public school thing a lot, when obviously Coldplay have done the same; so have Keane. Though I guess going into the Household Cavalry as an officer really exacerbates the point."
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