Damon Albarn ( born 23 March 1968) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the lead singer of the rock band Blur and as the co-founder, lead vocalist, instrumentalist, and primary lyricist of the virtual band Gorillaz. Raised in Leytonstone, East London, and around Colchester, Essex, Albarn attended the Stanway School, where he met guitarist Graham Coxon and formed Blur, which released its debut album Leisure in 1991. After spending long periods touring the U.S., Albarn's songwriting became increasingly influenced by British bands from the 1960s. The result was Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). All three albums received critical acclaim while Blur gained mass popularity in the UK, aided by a Britpop rivalry with Oasis. Subsequent albums such as Blur (1997), 13 (1999), and Think Tank (2003) incorporated influences from lo-fi, electronic and hip hop music. Albarn formed the virtual band Gorillaz in 1998 with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett. Drawing influences from hip hop, dub, pop, trip hop, and world music, Gorillaz released their self-titled debut album in 2001 to worldwide success, spawning successful follow-ups Demon Days (2005), Plastic Beach, The Fall (both released in 2010), Humanz (2017), and The Now Now (2018). Although Albarn is the only permanent musical contributor, Gorillaz albums typically feature collaborations from a range of artists. Gorillaz are cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "Most Successful Virtual Band". Albarn's other projects include two supergroups: The Good, the Bad & the Queen and Rocket Juice & the Moon, working with the non-profit organization Africa Express, which he co-founded, and composing film soundtracks. He has also scored stage productions, namely Monkey: Journey to the West (2008), Dr Dee (2012) and Wonder.land (2016). His debut solo studio album Everyday Robots was released in 2014. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked Albarn number 18 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture". In 2016, Albarn received the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to music.