Secret Tragedy Behind Song That Catapulted Ed Sheeran to Success; DEATH OF PAL AT 14 HAD DEEP EFFECT ON SINGER; EXCLUSIVE

Sunday Mirror (London, England), November 4, 2018 | Go to article overview

Secret Tragedy Behind Song That Catapulted Ed Sheeran to Success; DEATH OF PAL AT 14 HAD DEEP EFFECT ON SINGER; EXCLUSIVE


Byline: VIKKI WHITE

THE heartbreaking tragedy behind a song that helped give Ed Sheeran his big break is revealed in a moving new book.

The then unknown singer poured his grief into writing the emotional We Are after losing a close pal in a school trip accident nearly 13 years ago.

The poignant and personal song was not included in any of Ed's three number one albums. But it became one of the highlights of his gigs around London and East Anglia when he was a teenager.

He included it in a concert at The Bedford pub in Balham, south London, which was recorded for a self-released live EP in October 2010. Among the audience were bosses from record label Atlantic on the scout for new talent.

They were blown away by his highly emotional rendition of We Are and went on to sign him three months later.

The flame-haired star, then 19, would later refer to it as "the song that actually got me a record deal".

Among the numbers Ed, now 27, played at The Bedford that life-changing night were also songs dedicated to his first love Alice Hibbert. She was so pretty, one pal said Ed was "punching above his weight" with his first serious girlfriend.

But the future superstar went on to prove he was certainly not punching above his weight when it came to his talent. The Thinking Out Loud idol earned [euro]94million last year and has sold over 100million singles worldwide.

But as a 14-year-old schoolboy at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, near Ipswich, his future didn't seem to matter as he was plunged into despair by the death of pal Stuart Dines.

GRIEF

Stuart was on a half-term trip to an Austrian ski resort in February 2006 when the coach pulled on to a hard shoulder after a puncture near Cologne. Moments later a lorry carrying metal rods crashed into it - and one of the rods smashed through a window, killing Stuart. Ed, who wasn't on the trip, channelled his grief into We Are - and Stuart's family were so moved they played it at their son's funeral.

Ed also performed at a special tribute concert which raised funds for the Stuart Dines Library at a school in Kenya.

Acclaimed author Sean Smith writes in his book, entitled simply Ed Sheeran: "Ed had to come to terms with the death of someone he saw practically every day. He resolved to write a song about his feelings. He composed it, he said, 'whilst I got round to actually accepting it'."

Stuart's dad Robert told Sean: "Ed was very, very upset, like a lot of the children."

We Are was a different song for the teenage Ed - most of his compositions were inspired by love. At 16, he fell for Alice, a talented artist and one of the most intelligent and attractive girls in school. "Alice was like Ed's right-hand lady at the time," said promoter Phil Pethybridge, who met Ed when he performed gigs as a teen in Cambridge.

"She would always be quite placid about things and let it happen.

"She wouldn't actively get involved in things like gig set-ups. She would just be there, chilling out and chatting to people.

She never caused any issues or anything like that, which is quite nice actually. She just supported Ed in doing what he was doing." But when Alice prepared to head off to university in Reading, the couple were forced apart for a while.

Sean writes: "Ed was inspired to start the achingly beautiful song called Sunburn, one of his most heartfelt lyrics, about the misery of a teenage break-up.

"He explained his motivation, 'Every single girl I looked at, I was like, 'But you're not her!' The song is the only one that contains Alice's name. …

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