Soundtrack of my life: Duffy
She's up for four Brit awards, but which song got her booed on a school bus? Will Hodgkinson finds out
When I was bullied
Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers (1965)
As a kid, I never wanted to be a singer - I was far too shy - but I needed a way of externalising my thoughts because I was always talking shit. I used to be a good swimmer but I got picked on in the pool, and Unchained Melody always seemed to be on the radio when I came home. Later, I met my best friend, who had recently lost her mum. We were on the school bus one day when Unchained Melody came on the radio and she cried - it was the song played at her mother's funeral. I asked the driver to turn the radio off and all the kids booed me.
When I fell in love
The Man Who Sold The World, David Bowie (1971)
Here we have the unrequited love stage of my life. We've all been there. I couldn't tell this boy that I loved him because he was involved with someone else, and I can't tell you who he is because I still see him and he still doesn't know. I met him in London the other day, in fact. Anyway, this song makes me think of him, and you're talking to a girl who didn't even know who David Bowie was until five years ago. Now I'm obsessed with him. This is a great concept for a song, and it has one of the best bass lines of all time.
When I discovered sex
Cover Me, Bettye Swann (1968)
Bettye Swann is one of my biggest inspirations, but this song has particular importance for me because it marks the time I got interested in physical contact. I was 19, and here was a woman singing "Cover me, spread your precious love all over me". It's very tender, but it's also, hilariously, quite crude, so I'd make my friends listen to it and we'd all giggle. She's the unsung heroine of soul music. I believe that the strength of soul is in the words and the feeling of devotion - when you sacrifice everything, it's soul music.
Trying to make it in the music business
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, Prince (1994)
I love this song, but I associate it with a really horrible time in my life: of being in my late teens, when I had decided that I wanted to be a singer but nothing was working out. Nobody back home knew I was doing this and I had nobody to talk to. And I felt like the least beautiful girl in the world, so how ironic is that? Here's this guy singing about a glamorous chick and it was about as far removed from the reality of my life as you could get. Great tune, though.
The one that gave me hope
I can't give back the love I feel for you, Syreeta Wright (1967)
Again, a very tender song. This hit me hard when I was 21 with its line, "Here is a tear for a souvenir". I had got to the point where I thought, "They're going to have to kill me if they want to stop me doing this." Slowly, I realised that I wasn't losing my mind, that I was doing the right thing. It was finally happening. But I don't think about success. It's not even that I love singing and performing. It's more that I'm compelled to do it. All my life I've found myself in unusual situations, and music has been the thing that has saved me.
Strange and possibly true
1. Growing up in the small town of Nefyn, Duffy and her friends Delyth and Delyth amused themselves by smoking cigarettes and telling ghost stories in her father's shed. She puts her distinctive voice down to this formative experience.
2. The only other possible explanation for Duffy's talent is that she inherited it from her gran, who played the accordion and danced.
3. Before dedicating herself to soul music, Duffy appeared on Wawffactor, Welsh TV's answer to Pop Idol.
4. Rather like the subject of the Human League's Don't You Want Me, Duffy had been working as a waitress before she got her big break - though not in a cocktail bar, but a fish restaurant.
5. In Cleveland, Ohio, on an American tour, she accidentally set her hair on fire in her dressing room.