I can't listen to my daughter sing – it reminds me how badly I let her down: Adele's father reveals torment over their rift
As the applause rang out at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last weekend, musical megastar Adele stepped up tearfully to the microphone and paid a moving tribute to her mother.
‘I just want to say, Mum, your girl did good!’ the 23-year-old singer told the world in typically down-to-earth fashion after winning a plethora of awards.
She was referring, of course, to 43-year-old Penny Adkins, the woman who was just 18 when she became pregnant with Adele and single-handedly brought up the child who would become a global superstar.
Of her father, tellingly, Adele made no mention.
Mark Evans was watching television in the sitting room of his small home on a housing estate in Bridgend, South Wales, as his daughter revelled in the awards being showered upon her thousands of miles away.
The sight of Adele dressed to the nines in a Giorgio Armani dress receiving a standing ovation from some of the biggest names in the music world was almost too much for the 50-year-old plumber, as he was reminded of the blonde toddler who once strummed on a charity shop guitar as she sang to him.
It was the mesmerising sound of Adele’s voice when she launched into her hit song Rolling In The Deep that finally forced her father to leave the room, overcome with emotion.
Mark, a recovering alcoholic, does not own a copy of either of Adele’s two award-winning albums, nor has he seen her perform live.
‘When she sings, it’s so beautiful,’ he says, ‘but it brings back too many memories.
'It’s too painful. There’s so much regret on my part — regret that I wasn’t a better father to her. I let her down badly, and I wish I could turn the clock back and do things differently.’
More than two decades have passed since Mark walked out on Adele when she was two, leaving her 20-year-old mother, Penny, to raise her alone.
For years, he says, he kept in touch with his daughter, even though, by his own admission, he offered little in the way of financial support.
There were, however, summer holidays spent in a caravan in Tenby, South Wales, and days eating ice cream on the beach at Barry Island, Glamorgan where Mark helped his father, John, run a cafe at the pleasure park.
Adele, aged 4, on a visit to her father Mark Evans' home in South Wales. 'There's so much regret on my part – regret that I wasn't a better father to her. I let her down badly,' he said
He remembers a happy-go-lucky little girl who loved swimming and was obsessed with the Spice Girls, always singing along to their songs and learning their lyrics by heart.
‘I just can’t believe that a scruffy little kid from Tottenham has grown up to be a global superstar,’ Mark says.
But the alcoholism which took over his life in the late Nineties, after his father died from bowel cancer at 57, all but destroyed his relationship with Adele.
‘I hit the booze,’ Mark admits. ‘I got wrapped up in myself. I wasn’t there for her. The alcohol affected my relationship with Adele. I regret it, and I always will.’
Mark’s self-pity is of little relevance now to the 23-year-old daughter he let down so badly.
Feted on both sides of the Atlantic, her second album, 21, which has sold 6.4 million copies worldwide, was last year’s best-selling album. As befits her new-found wealth, the millionairess recently moved in to a 6 million mansion in West Sussex.
'I just want to say, Mum, your girl did good!' the 23-year-old singer told the world in typically down-to-earth fashion after winning a plethora of awards
Fame and its trappings aside, it seems she has little time for the father she feels betrayed her.
‘If I ever see him, I will spit in his face,’ she said in an interview with American Vogue published this week.
‘He will never hear from me again.’
For Mark, who grew up in the Welsh seaside town of Penarth, Adele’s words cut like a knife.
‘I can’t believe she said that. It’s devastating. I don’t know where it’s come from.’
Mark last spoke to Adele when he phoned to wish her a happy Christmas.
‘I called to tell her I was thinking of her, but it was a very brief call. She was very busy, but everything seemed OK between us,’ he insists.
He met Adele’s mother, then an 18-year-old art student, in 1987 in a London pub.
Mark walked out on Adele when she was two, leaving her 20-year-old mother, Penny Adkins, to raise her alone (pictured: Adele aged 11 with her father)
‘Penny was amazing,’ says Mark, who is now in a new relationship.
‘She was a gorgeous-looking woman with real presence. She was funny, too. She knew how to make you laugh, and she was intelligent and creative.’
Penny, who lived in Tottenham, North London, quickly became pregnant, much to the shock of her parents, greengrocer John Adkins and his wife Doreen.
Mark recalls breaking the news to Penny’s father after a family lunch one Sunday.
‘He was surprised, but there were tears running down his face, which I took to be happiness,’ he says.
After the birth of Adele Laurie Blue Adkins on May 5, 1988, her parents moved into a two-bedroom flat round the corner from her family home.
Mark found work as a plumber, while Penny shelved her dreams of going to art college and concentrated on motherhood. He insists he was prepared to settle down and get married, and says it was actually Adele’s mother who baulked at making such a commitment.
'She (Penny) was happy to raise Adele on her own,' said Mark
‘I wanted our baby to have parents who were married,’ he says.
‘But Penny told me we were too young. She didn’t think I was ready to settle down.
‘We gradually drifted apart. I loved her with all my heart, and vice versa, but it just didn’t seem to work.’
Mark admits he was wild in his younger days and went out drinking with friends. Eventually, he moved back to Wales, where his father had leased a cafe on Barry Island.
‘He wanted me to help run it,’ he says. ‘But the door was always open for Penny and Adele, and they used to come for holidays.’
In London, Penny struggled to make ends meet but found work as a furniture designer. Mark admits he didn’t make regular financial contributions to Adele’s upbringing, but insists: ‘Penny never wanted anything from me. Sometimes I did give her money, when I could.’
While Penny worked, Adele was often cared for by one of her two aunts, Kim and Anita.
They were a close-knit family, described by Adele in American Vogue as ‘brilliant’. She says the family was ‘dominated by women all really helping each other out, so even though (Mum) brought me up on her own, it was a kind of team effort’.
Mark insists he saw his daughter often in her early childhood.
‘It was always amicable. She’s a very chilled out, happy-go-lucky character, like Adele. She was happy to raise Adele on her own,’ he says.
Penny and Adele often visited Mark: there were caravan holidays each summer, and days out at the beach.
He recalls the terrifying day at the seaside when Adele, aged five, disappeared.
‘She’d been on a trampoline,’ says Mark. ‘I’d gone to get us chips, and when I got back, my mum was hysterical. She was saying: “Adele’s gone, she’s gone.” We were terrified someone had grabbed her.’
While police combed the beach, Mark eventually found her — looking at a boat they had taken a trip on the previous day. He remembers how, on another occasion, when Adele was four, she arrived in Wales carrying a toy guitar her mother had bought her in a charity shop.
Adele aged 6 on a visit to the Amelia Trust Farm in Barry near Cardiff South Wales. Mark remembers her as a happy-go-lucky little girl who loved swimming and was obsessed with the Spice Girls
‘She was teaching herself how to play it by listening to the old blues songs we used to listen to on my record player, then trying to make the same noise. She was quite good. Within a couple of years, she’d started singing along, too.’
But a black cloud fell on the family with the death of Mark’s father in 1999. He says Adele was ‘incredibly close’ to her grandfather, and devastated by his death.
‘Losing my dad was the single worst thing that has ever happened to me,’ he says.
‘I loved him so much. He was everything to me. One of the hardest things for me is knowing he never saw Adele perform, never saw what she became.’
Mark speaks of having a complete breakdown after his father’s death — he lost his hair to stress-induced alopecia — and of drinking two litres of vodka a day for three years.
Eventually, seven years ago, a girlfriend stepped in and finally helped persuade him to stop drinking.
‘God only knows how I survived it, but somehow I did,’ says Mark. ‘I hit the bottle so hard that I am pretty much oblivious to anything that happened to me in those three years, and I didn’t want Adele to see me like that.
‘I was deeply ashamed of what I’d become. The kindest thing I could do for Adele was to make sure she never saw me in that state.’
'I believe Adele was born to sing. It's in our blood. I was a choirboy, and my mum still sings in Penarth Baptist Choir, so perhaps she gets it from her,' said Mark
Whether Adele would agree is another matter entirely. While her father attempted to drink his way through the pain in his life, she was living with her mother in a down-at-heel flat above a discount store in South London.
Determined to pursue a career in music, she won a place at the Brit School of Performing Arts when she was 14.
Mark recalls meeting up with her in London around that time, in an attempt to make his peace with her.
‘We met up at Camden Market and we were sitting at a stall drinking tea. I started to tell her about what had happened to me, and she gave me this huge, kind smile. She put her arms around me and said: “It’s OK, Dad. I understand. I forgive you.” ’
'She deserves all the happiness and success in the world,' said Mark of his world-famous daughter
Mark had two long-term relationships after splitting from Penny and had another child — a son, Cameron — who is now 16 and still at school.
‘Cameron and Adele are like twins,’ he says.
‘Adele stays in touch with him and he’s been to see her perform.’
In 2007, and on the brink of stardom, Adele sent her father and grandmother a copy of a song she’d recorded on CD, called Hometown Glory.
‘We listened to it and I remember looking at my mum and thinking: “Where did that voice come from”
‘But I believe Adele was born to sing. It’s in our blood. I was a choirboy, and my mum still sings in Penarth Baptist Choir, so perhaps she gets it from her.’
The last time he saw Adele was last summer, when she went to Penarth to stay with her grandmother, Rose, in her rambling Victorian home near the seafront.
‘We drank tea together,’ says Mark. ‘She didn’t talk about her career much, she just said life was going well and she was happy. I’m so proud of her — I’m walking ten feet tall at the moment.’
He says he’d like to congratulate his daughter on her Grammy success, but says he’ll wait for her to contact him.
‘She’s very busy,’ he says. ‘She’s making her way in life.’
Part of that life includes her new boyfriend, Simon Konecki, though Mark has never met him, nor any of Adele’s other boyfriends.
Divorced Old Etonian Konecki, 37, who has a five-year-old daughter, is a former investment banker who turned his back on his City career to set up a company which provides clean drinking water in the developing world.
‘He seems a lovely chap,’ says Mark. ‘They’re made in heaven together. She deserves to be loved. It would be lovely for Adele to have a nice guy in her life and settle down.’
If she decides to marry, Mark hopes he will be able to give her away.
‘She’s my little girl. I’d be so proud — not because she’s Adele the superstar, but because she’s my daughter.’
Whether father and daughter will ever be closely involved in each other’s lives remains to be seen.
‘What’s done is done,’ he says. ‘I can’t turn the clock back. I know I was a rotten father, but, in the end, she’s made it.
'She deserves all the happiness and success in the world.’