You try like you are ugly. Is beauty skin deep?

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My friends tell me I always seem to end up talking to the most beautiful woman in the room. Maybe they don't really believe I can't see them!

So what is this? Animal magnetism? Sixth sense? Hardly. It presumes that the reason I want to talk to someone is sexual. It probably isn't. So maybe it is assuming that I have found a way of discovering covertly which women in the room are deemed 'beautiful' by the standards of others. As if I would allow myself to be guided in what is such a personal value. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

What does not seem in doubt is that quite often I spend more time with those who intrigue me than with those who have nothing under the skin. Beauty is certainly not only or always skin deep. Beauty can be anywhere. It can be in the skin, in the eyes, in the mouth, in the body, in the bearing, in the heart, in the spirit, in the soul, in the brain, in the aesthetic, in the demeanour, in the compassion, in the voice and even in the adversity.

If I often talk with a beautiful woman it may be that I am intrigued to feel something good, something estimable, something caring or charismatic which lies hidden. It often lies hidden because so much time has been spent by that person dealing with their attractiveness to others that they are rarely given the opportunity to be valued for what they are inside. The predatory or salivating onlooker takes courage in both hands and moves in for the kill. The beautiful person takes standard evasive action – come over dull, uninterested, cool, hostile, having nothing to say, offering no opening. This is no way to get a serious exchange going and no way to find out what makes someone tick.

The truth is that a beautiful person may have just as much depth as anyone else if you are lucky enough not to be beguiled. I am that lucky person.

By the same token, a lack of those characteristics which others deem 'beautiful' in an external sense in no way stops real beauty from existing. If I find it within I will respond to it. Young or old, fat or thin, able or wheellchair-bound, it's all the same to me.

Where does that leave us? Can I sense a beautiful woman near me? Probably yes most times. Can I sense a person who feels inadequate in the physical sense? Probably yes, most times. Does it matter? Well, yes it matters to them probably…. and what matters to them matters to me.

I have worked in an intensely personal way with some of the world's most beautiful women and men. I have had success in drawing out honest, passionate vocal performances by getting under the skin and by not reacting to their beauty at all. And yes, there was a real person under there after all…. often dying to get out.

Many years ago I dated a former Miss World. I got talking to her at a party. After an hour we left together and went to a coffee house to continue our chat. She told me it was the first proper conversation she had had with a man for five years.

I spent an hour some years ago standing between Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeifer at a party. I talked to both of them. I had an arm around each one. All I will say is that one of them was beautiful inside and out – the other was a cold and ugly person whom I was glad to be rid of.

Second thought for September 2011

"To thine own self be true"

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

Polonius to Laertes Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3

I am an unashamed idealist. In my real life this has meant many things. I say 'real life' because a lot of what people think in the still of the night is not reflected in how they act in the day. But for me there is no day or night and there is no schism between what I think and how I act.

At least that is my ideal and I am an idealist. Every record I have made I have tried with every part of me to live up to the artist's highest hopes to communicate their passions and their emotions to touch others. Every time I have gbeen offered an artist and I have met that artist and they want only fame and money I turn them down. My manager Clive found this exasperating but he stuck with me and we are still the closest of friends. Many of the artists on whose work I laboured did not find success but they are all still my friends and they all still love and cherish what we did together.

Every time I have made money it has been incidental not planned. Every time I have this money I either spend it on an ideal or I give it away in response to my higher self.

This latter is important. We have a higher self which tells us what we ought to do and we have a lower self which lowers our standards and our values and whispers to us about profit, greed, success, money, seduction or esteem and power.

So I never have any money or if I do I never have it for long. There is always someone with a dream or a challenge who can use that money to help them. There is always a need for something to be better. I reopened Sony Whitfield Street in 2004 when Sony had closed it down for economic reasons. I ran at a huge loss for two years, I spent every penny I had on it. Eventually there was no more money and the landlord threw us out. But in those two years we ran a great studio, great service, looked after all the equipment as if they were our children, looked after the artists and staff as if they were our children, offered all the technical backup needed 24/7. That is not sustainable but for those two years the artists experienced my values and my ideals in a creative studio.I only met Sade because I was approached to help Chileans affected by Pinochet's evil regime and I said yes. We made records to draw attention to their plight and musicians came and played for free. Two of these were from Sade's band. When we recorded Diamond Life we did the best record we could. I found out the band's ideals, their dreams and passions and that's the record we made. The record company tried everything to change it – 'to make it more commercial – but somehow it got past the security and got put out. 27 years later it is still having a positive effect. I get letters every week from all over the world from people still touched by that music.

And I made money from that music and bought a big house and a big car. But then I sold them and gave all the money away to help Mandela, Oxfam, Nimibian Freedom Fighters and others.

I am an idealist. I have no money now. I live simply and make no music for commercial labels now. I help those who need it and who deserve it. I cover my costs if they can afford it. In December I go to Africa again. This time to teach the world's poorest disabled young people how to make music and to provide them with computers, microphones, speakers and the tools to do the job. I am asking companies to provide this equipment not for profit. Some of them will say no. But in the dark hours of the night I hope that their higher self will talk to them and will tell them they are not being true to themselves.