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Shirley Bassey

From Academic Kids

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Shirley Bassey in 2000

Dame Shirley Bassey (born January 8, 1937), is a Welsh singer, perhaps best known for performing the theme songs to the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Moonraker (1979). To date no other performer has recorded more than one of the coveted theme songs.


The Early Years

Shirley was born to a Nigerian and West-Indian father who was a seaman, while her mother came from Yorkshire, Northern England. She grew up in the notorious Tiger Bay area of Cardiff as the youngest of seven children. Her father left when she was just two years old.

Shirley first found employment packing in a local factory when she left school at the age of fifteen. She enjoyed singing while she packed enamel pots, and to supplement her wage she sang in local pubs and clubs. In 1953, she signed up for the revue Memories of Jolson, a musical based on the life of Al Jolson. She next took up a professional engagement in Hot From Harlem, which ran until 1954. By this time Shirley had become sick of show business and had become pregnant at 16 years old with her daughter Sharon, so she went back to waitressing in Cardiff. However, in 1955, a chance recommendation of her to Michael Sullivan, a booking agent in London, put her firmly on course for her destined career. He saw talent in Shirley, and decided he would make her a star. She toured various theatres until she got an offer of the show that put her firmly on the road to stardom, Al Read's Such Is Life. While she starred in this show, Philips A&R and record producer Johnny Franz spotted her on television, became impressed, and offered her a record deal.

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Shirley Bassey - the Philips Years

Shirley duly recorded her first single, entitled Burn My Candle, and Philips released it in February 1956. Due to the suggestive lyric, the BBC banned it, but it still sold well nonetheless, backed with her powerful rendition of Stormy Weather. Further singles appeared, and in February 1957 Shirley scored her first hit with The Banana Boat Song, which peaked at #8 in the British chart. That year she also recorded under the direction of US producer Mitch Miller in America for the Columbia label, producing the single If I Had A Needle And Thread / Tonight My Heart She Is Crying. In mid-1958, she recorded two singles which would end up as classics in the Bassey catalogue. As I Love You appeared as a b-side to another ballad, Hands Across The Sea. It didn't sell well at first, but after a chance appearance at the London Palladium, things began to pick up. In February 1959, it made #1 and stayed there for 4 weeks. Shirley also recorded Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me at this time, and while As I Love You raced up the charts, so too did this record. They ended up with both in the top 3 at the same time.

A few months later, Shirley Bassey signed to EMI Columbia, and the second phase in her recording career had begun.

Bassey became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (the female equivalent of a Knight Commander) on December 31, 1999.

External links

de:Shirley Bassey fr:Shirley Bassey simple:Shirley Bassey

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