With her distinctive velvet-and-iron-filings voice and vintage-styled glamour, she was one of the most garlanded singers of her generation — winning a Grammy, three Brits and an Ivor Novello award, conquering America and making £20 million for her record company.
Her debut album Rockferry was the world’s fourth best-selling album in 2008, and sold 9 million copies.
But while some contemporaries such as Adele went on to enormous global successes, Duffy simply . . . disappeared.
Her second album, Endlessly, flopped in 2010 and that was that.
Duffy’s debut album Rockferry was the world’s fourth best-selling album in 2008, and sold 9 million copies. But while some contemporaries such as Adele went on to enormous global successes, Duffy simply . . . disappeared, writes Alison Boshoff
Every now and then, people would wonder what became of the 5ft 2in Welsh blonde bombshell who had briefly captivated the public imagination. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans played her hit Mercy in 2017 and asked listeners: ‘Whatever happened to Duffy? Back in the day she was ahead of Adele. She couldn’t have been any bigger at the time.’
From time to time, someone in the showbiz world would report having seen her, or working with her.
One friend told me he met her a few times several years ago to talk about a professional association which came to nothing and described her as: ‘Sweet but a bit eccentric, a little strange.’
A further source said that there was talk in around 2012 that she was going through a very tough time privately.
But otherwise her withdrawal was complete. So entirely did she drop from view that it wasn’t even clear recently where she was living.
She moved out of a £12 million penthouse flat in Kensington in 2012 and from that point she was not listed on any electoral roll in the country.
The Welsh singer, pictured at the 2009 Grammys with Paul McCartney, won a Grammy, three Brits and an Ivor Novello award, conquered America and made £20m for her record company
It was said that she was quietly living in South London, although there were even claims that she was temporarily lodging with a friend in Abersoch, Wales.
Now, after the moving statement on her Instagram account, released on Tuesday night, some light has been thrown on the mystery of Duffy’s disappearance, as she revealed she’d taken time out to process tremendous personal trauma.
Suddenly, after years of silence she announced: ‘Many of you wonder what happened to me, where did I disappear to and why . . .
‘The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course I survived.
‘The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it, but I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine.’
Apparently inspired by the guilty verdicts in the Weinstein trial on Monday, Duffy, 35, indicated that this had happened a decade ago, and that she’d revealed all to an unnamed journalist last summer.
Now she was getting ready to tell her story more fully, and possibly pick up the threads of her career.
So entirely did Duffy (pictured with her gongs at the Brit Awards in 2009) drop from view that it wasn’t even clear recently where she was living. She moved out of a £12m penthouse flat in Kensington in 2012 and from that point she was not listed on any electoral roll in the country
Her father John, a former pub landlord who lives in a modest terraced house in Nefyn, on the Llyn Peninsula, indicated that she had been fighting demons last summer.
In an interview not previously published, John, who is close to his famous daughter, described her long hiatus as ‘a quiet period’.
At the time, he said that she might be getting ready to come back again, but that equally she might choose not to return.
‘She has never stopped writing music. It’s what she’s always done. She just hasn’t been in the public eye lately,’ he said before adding: ‘She’s got a lot going for her. It’s up to her what she does and I’ll always support her and back her decisions. She is my flesh and blood.’
He said that there had not been another boyfriend since Wales rugby star Mike Phillips, who she had described as the love of her life and from whom she split in 2011.
Duffy’s father John said there had not been another boyfriend since Wales rugby star Mike Phillips (pictured together in 2010), who she had described as the love of her life and from whom she split in 2011
‘She’s not involved with anyone at the moment. I can assure you she hasn’t had any kids,’ he said.
He said he was in touch with her and saw her regularly, but didn’t want to talk about where she might be.
Asked about her possible comeback — after all Duffy said that she was going to return ‘soon’ in an Instagram post in 2017 — he shook his head.
He added: ‘No, I can’t speak. No good would come of it.’
At that time her stepfather Philip Smith, who lives with Duffy’s mum Joyce in Letterston, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, declined to talk about her.
However neighbour Robert Rees said that her withdrawal had puzzled the local community. He said: ‘I know Duffy well but I haven’t seen her in years — it’s been a very long time.
‘I think she still gets on with her parents but I haven’t seen her at the house. I think they go and see her every now and then but I don’t know where she is living.
‘She hasn’t done any music in so long — I don’t know what has happened to her.’
No one, it seems, knew about the secret she was harbouring.
Aimee Ann Duffy was born in June 1984 — one of twins. She grew up as a Welsh speaker in Nefyn, a tiny, close-knit town with no record shop or cinema.
Her mum Joyce and father John ran the social Constitutional Club. There were no instruments in the house but young Duffy was captivated by music.
‘I was concentrating on the classics that were being played on the radio like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye. It was so vivid. I could relate to the idea that the sun ain’t gonna shine any more,’ she said.
‘If someone had given me a guitar then who knows what might have happened. But my voice was the only instrument I had.’
When she and twin sister Katy were six, and older sister Kelly was ten, her parents announced that they were to divorce. The sisters cried so much that the couple stayed together for an extra four years.
Eventually mum Joyce moved on with agricultural merchant Philip Smith, and she took the girls 200 miles away to Pembrokeshire to be with him.
Now, after the moving statement on her Instagram account (pictured), released on Tuesday night, some light has been thrown on the mystery of Duffy’s disappearance, as she revealed she’d taken time out to process tremendous personal trauma
Before she left, Duffy wrote on the wall of the family house, behind a curtain: ‘I love you Dad’ because she didn’t want to leave him. When he later redecorated the house he painted around the message.
It was bewildering for the young Aimee to be in an English-language school and in a new home with a stepfather, his four children, and an uncle and aunt.
Duffy said: ‘We kept speaking Welsh so the kids thought we were weird. We quickly learned that we weren’t going to survive if we did that.’
Life was difficult — she called it ‘dog eat dog’ in the new family. ‘If you had a chocolate bar you had bought with some money you had found then there was outrage in the house, “How come you’ve got one?” But little things were what we got by on. We just didn’t have anything.’