Of the many groundbreaking female songwriters who rose to prominence in the early '90s, none has challenged herself musically more than Polly Harvey. Harvey's potent blend of sexuality and spirituality has elicited comparisons to such icons as Patti Smith. It's hard to think of another songwriter of the '90s whose work has been as deeply intertwined with her (or his) psyche.

Polly Harvey from Corscombe, was born in Yeovil hospital on October 9th 1969. Residing on a sheep farm (her father also worked as a quarryman), young Polly Jean regularly performed such chores as dipping animals and (as she once vividly described to a Tonight Show audience) ringing lambs' testicles.

As her mother was deeply involved in the local music scene, there were always players hanging around the Harvey household, and young Polly Jean got the opportunity to experience and experiment with a lot of different styles and instruments. In her first teenage bands, Bologna and Automatic Dlamini, Harvey was a side woman, playing saxophone and only occasionally contributing a song. Considering that she was always writing, this couldn't last.

While attending Yeovil Art College, she teamed up with bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Robert Ellis to form the PJ Harvey trio, even though by that time she had set her sights on obtaining a degree in sculpture. When she moved to London to continue her studies, however, music quickly became her primary focus.

In the Autumn of 1991, the PJ Harvey trio released a single, "Dress," followed a few months later by "Sheela- Na- Gig." Both songs generated lots of excitement in the London music press, which perked up its ears (and eyes) further when Harvey appeared topless on the cover of the British magazine New Musical Express. With hype at a fever pitch, the album Dry was released in March of 1992 to near universal acclaim. The album was hailed for both its musical innovation and its lyrical audacity, and indeed many critics proclaimed Harvey the best songwriter of the year.

The follow-up, Rid of Me, gave Harvey's vision a harder edge. Producer Steve Albini thoroughly indulged his taste for elementary dynamics - very loud to very soft, very sharp to very soft, with little in between. Then Harvey, who has more than once referred to herself as a 'dictator', reorganized her band and spent a year or two working on a new approach.

Harvey's first effort without her former band, To Bring You My Love, proved to be her commercial breakthrough. Released in 1995, the album was produced by the triumvirate of John Parish, Flood, and Harvey herself.  Unconstrained by the task of accompanying herself, Harvey unleashed a chanteuse- like, Kabuki- inspired stage persona that she herself described as "Joan Crawford on acid." To Bring You My Love went on to top many critics' Top 10 lists.

Dancehall at Louse PointHarvey has spent much of the last three years collaborating with such artists as Tricky and Nick Cave. She also co-released a full- length album with John Parish, titled Dance Hall at Louse Point, that featured her lyrics set to Parish's music. Harvey has also begun to dabble in acting, and will appear as Mary Magdalene in a forthcoming film titled The Book of Life.

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