A couple of interesting tidbits crossed my path over the past week. They both involve "older" female British pop singers, and I think they both merit your attention. First one first.
It's "Diamonds Are Forever", from the 7th James Bond film of the same name. 1971 was the year, and it was Bassey's second Bond theme, the first one we'll get to in a minute, the third being this:
Yea, I know. This 1979 entry into the Bond series (the 11th film) wasn't exactly great, but you can't blame either the John Barry theme, or Dame Bassey's performance. It's flawless.
Bassey first started performing in the mid 50's in her native Wales, and in the late 50's hit #1 in the U.K. with "As I Love You"....
....at which point her career was made, with her doing 3 James Bond themes (the most of any artist) cementing her popularity in here in the colonies.
As an example of the respect Dame Bassey is given in the U.K., in 2001 she was the headliner at Prince Philip's 80th birthday party. And now it's time for her to get her do.
At 76, she still tours, and will appear later this month at the Academy Awards show. Can you guess what she will probably sing? Yes, and if this 2009 performance at the BBC Electric Proms is any example, she hasn't lost a beat.
The other artist that crossed my path was Petula Clark. Pet started her career a little earlier, at age 9, performing on BBC radio during WWII, hitting the British charts through the 50's with songs like "Suddenly There's A Valley".
About this time, she performed in Paris and became very popular there, for all practical purposes establishing parallel careers in both France and England, a situation that continues today.
And if this version of "Ya Ya Twist" is ringing a bell, it's a remake of Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya". In the mid 60's, with her career in a bit of a decline in England, she was presented with a song that would change all that. In 1964, she hit it BIG on both sides of the pond with....
.....which kicked off a string of hits including "Don't Sleep In The Subway", "It's A Sign Of The Times", and "I Know A Place"
while still being a major recording artist in France, with songs like "A Tous Ceux Qui Ont Un Coeur" (see if you can figure out what it is).
Throw in an acting career ("Finian's Rainbow" and a remake of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" among others), and her guiding Richard and Karen Carpenter to A&M Records, and you could say the girl had a busy life.
In the mid 70's, as her U.S. hits began to dry up, Pet slowed her career down, doing occasional tours and acting on stage, while maintaining her popularity in French Canada and France, and she has continued to tour off and on ever since.
Now you've probably seen her most recently on PBS, as both the Spokane and Seattle PBS outlets have been re-airing the 2007 "British Beat" reunion show that she hosted (These shows are notable because a) the music's good, and b) you won't see The Troggs' lead singer Reg Presley again....he passed away last week), but she has something most 80 year olds can't claim.
It's a new(ish) album. Released last year, it's mostly in French, as befitting where she's still a BIG thing, but with 5 of the 13 cuts in English. But it doesn't matter what language she sings in, this album is first rate, both in French....
or in English.
So here's a question. Name me one of the current crop of auto-tuned, pre-programmed singers out there who will still garner respect 50 years after their careers peaked. Didn't think you could.