A veteran British musician said “music is a tonic” as she performed a concert to mark her 90th birthday.
Ruth Allen – who celebrated the milestone on Sunday – began her musical career in London during The Blitz, playing at clubs while air raid sirens were ringing out across the capital.
After the war, Ms Allen started playing at the Astor club in Mayfair before touring Europe where she met jazz singer Billie Holiday in Paris.
Now living in Los Angeles, California, Ms Allen topped the bill at the Canyon Theatre earlier this month, playing a set of her own songs at a show titled You’re Never Too Old.
She said: “I’m very old now – but I don’t feel it. It’s kept me going. It’s wonderful to still be working, I love every minute of it. Music is the tonic of life, more people should play music, it’s like a cure.”
Ms Allen, who has three daughters and two grandchildren, moved to the United States in the 1950s after marrying an American soldier and continued her career in music.
She performed for revered composer Duke Ellington, played at New York’s Carnegie Hall and was offered a recording contract with Columbia Records, which she turned down because she had a young daughter and would be unable to tour.
Ms Allen now volunteers at an elderly people’s home, performing for residents. And she believes everybody should give something back.
She said: “I think everybody, whether they know it or not, has something to give. Giving is just a great feeling. I give music and laughter and smiles and asking them how they are – you can do so much for each other if you want to.
“Their laughs and smiles – they are so wonderful. Everywhere I have volunteered I have found this response. It’s not hard to do, to be kind and be warm to people.”
Despite having left her native England more than 60 years ago, Ms Allen admits she misses the country of her birth and insists her heart is still in London.
She said: “I came over here in about ’54, I have lived more years in the US than I have in London but my heart is still in London. I really, really miss it but that’s life.”
And speaking about her life and career, Ms Allen added: “I don’t regret a thing.”