Dame Shirley Bassey The Girl from Tiger Bay
The Welsh are famous for their beautiful singing voices. Wales has been the birthplace of many great singers. Some have been members of choirs.
Of course there has only ever been, or will only ever be, one Shirley Bassey.
Shirley Bassey was born in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Wales in January 1937. This means that Our Shirl celebrated her 73rd birthday in January 2010. Amazing when you look at the image, at the right, which shows her performing just 4 years ago. She is as glamorous as ever with the same great voice.
Dame Shirley, as she has been since 1999, found fame in the late 50s and has become something of a British Institution.
Shirley was the seventh and last child of Henry and Eliza Bassey. As a mixed race child, growing up in the UK, in the 40s and 50s, would have been hard.
Shirley spent her early years in a working class district of Cardiff. After singing in the choir whilst at school she took a packing job in a local factory, when she left school at the age of fifteen.
Shirley's nights and weekends were spent singing in local pubs and clubs. By 1953 she had secured her first proper musical work. After various appearances in two different shows her music career was halted. Shirley was pregnant aged just 16.
Within a couple of years though her talent was spotted again and/ this time/ her music career really took off.
Various hit records were to follow and there was a time when Shirley was rarely away from British television screens. Variety shows, such as Sunday Night at the London Palladium, were very popular and Shirley was often the top of the bill act.
As a child I would watch my Dad as he was entertained by Shirley's performances. Dad loved her. Our Shirl he would call her. She was a very good looking woman, with a powerful voice and her own individual style. She would dress in long glitzy gowns and throw her arms dramatically around as she sang.
Shirley appeared on shows such as Morecambe and Wise in the UK and was not afraid to be seen in a funny light. One of my favourite performances of hers was in a glitzy gown wearing hobnail boots. How she kept a straight face I will never know. A YouTube clip is below.
Current fashions, in TV entertainment, mean that there are seldom opportunities for artists such as Dame Shirley to perform on TV. However we see and hear her now and then. She has been classed as semi retired since the late 80s but still performs and has a large fan base.
Shirley was also the voice behind so many great Bond film soundtracks such as:-
- Diamonds are Forever
Yes now you know who I mean, don't you?
Dame Shirley's latest release was The Performance, which was released on Geffen Records in November 2009. It was her first Studio album for over 20 years. All the tracks were written by musicians, especially for this album. The track listing is:-
- Almost There [Tom Baxter]
- Apartment [Rufus Wainwright]
- This Time [Gary Barlow]
- I Love You Now [Nick Hodgeson]
- Our Time Is Now [John Barry/Don Black]
- As God Is My Witness [David Arnold/David McAlmont]
- No Good About Goodbye [David Arnold/Don Black]
- The Girl From Tiger Bay [Manic Street Preachers]
- Nice Men [KT Tunstall]
- After The Rain [Richard Hawley]
- The Performance Of My Life [Pet Shop Boys
Shirley has certainly lived a full life. Like so many performers she has had more than her fair share of troubles. These days Shirley lives in Monte Carlo. This is a far cry from her early days in Tiger Bay, Wales but she has certainly earned this bit of luxury.
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