Barbara Dickson says put everything to the five-year test

The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Barbara Dickson says put everything to the five-year test

  • Barbara Dickson OBE, who lives in Edinburgh, released solo album 52 years ago
  • The 74-year-old says her mother became a little needy at the end of her life
  • Advises doing things with integrity because you’ll be glad you did in five years 

A multi-million-selling recording artist with an Olivier award-winning acting career, Barbara Dickson OBE, 74, released her first solo album 52 years ago. In 2020 she appeared in the BBC’s The Real Marigold Hotel. Married to TV director Oliver Cookson, she has three sons, aged 35, 33, 31, and lives in Edinburgh.

Throughout my career, I never saw myself as a star. Elizabeth Taylor was a star! I wanted to have a normal life; my feet have always been firmly planted on the ground.

I was lucky to meet my husband in my mid-30s, but I had to crack on quickly to have my three sons. Nowadays I’m desperate to be a grandmother. I say jokingly to them: ‘You better hurry up or I’ll be too old to take them to feed the ducks.’ When you get past 70, I think it’s important to seize the day. I’m not talking about ticking boxes but doing things you’d like to do while you’re alive. I cycle, swim and practise tai chi. I started running at the age of 72!

Barbara Dickson OBE, 74, (pictured) who lives in Edinburgh, says whatever you’re doing, do it with integrity

I like the way my voice sounds now — it’s richer and full of life experience. And the words you sing do mean more the older you get.

I’m also now a bit of a snob about light entertainment — I prefer documentaries — but I loved filming The Real Marigold Hotel. It gave me the chance to meet other people who were the same age.

What you find is that older people do not fight. The producers would look for gentle conflict, but they really had to search for it because nobody wanted to fall out with anybody else.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that when you’re facing any decision — ‘Should I do this now or should I wait? Or should I do this at all?’ — you need to be able to look back on it in five years and say: ‘I did my best.’ You don’t want to end your life full of regret.

At the end of her life my mother became a little needy and there were times when I was fantastically busy. I’d sometimes think: ‘Oh I’m not going to go and do that for her now.’ But then I’d think: ‘No, do it now. Do your best for her. Be unselfish. She will not be around for ever.’

Whatever you’re doing, take a deep breath and do it with integrity. In five years you’ll be glad you did.

  • BARBARA DICKSON’S UK tour begins on March 17 ( 

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