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Fri, 01.08.1937

Shirley Bassey, Singer born

Shirley Bassey

*Shirley Bassey was born on this date in 1937. She is a Black British singer.

From Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Wales, Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey had a Nigerian seaman father, while her mother came from Yorkshire, Northern England. Bassey 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. She first found employment packing in a local factory when she left school at fifteen.  Her first professional job was at 16 in the touring revue Memories Of Al Jolson.  Jack Hylton discovered Bassey in variety at Astor Club ‘55; he put her in the revue Such Is Life with Northern comic Al Read.

Her Top ten UK hits began with 'Banana Boat Song' '1957, 'Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me' no. 3 '1958; first no. 1 'As I Love You' 1959; no. 2 in '1960 with 'As Long As He Needs Me' from Oliver!; 'You'll Never Know' no. 6, 'I'll Get By' no. 10, 'Reach For The Stars'/'Climb Every Mountain' no. 1, all in '1961.  Her real talent was on stage, with dynamic singing and extravagant gestures, often in a backless, side, and strapless gown, keeping the audience in suspense. Her smash hit work in Persian Room NYC '1961 established her as a live act in the USA, but her only top 40 entry was the theme from Bond film Goldfinger (no. 8 '1965).

Bassey’s United Kingdom hits continued: 'What Now, My Love' '1962; 'I (Who Have Nothing)' '1963. The Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields hit from Sweet Charity 'Big Spender' reached no. 21 '1967 and became a memorable body-grinding moment in the live act. Later the record was found effective in clearing pigeons from runways at Liverpool airport. She moved to Switzerland in '1969, leading to the LP Does Anybody Miss Me.

Her version of George Harrison's 'Something' made no. 4 '1970, 'For All We Know', 'Never, Never, Never' made top ten; another Bond theme, 'Diamonds Are Forever' did well, but by the mid-'1970s the hit singles had stopped. She played Carnegie Hall in '1972 and released a live album from there in 1973. She was successful on UK TV in '1983, with guests like Richard Clayderman and Robert Goulet, and others.

Despite public sympathy for her daughter's death by drowning, '85 UK tabloid papers sold issues with implication of neglect.  Bassey became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (the female equivalent of a Knight Commander) on December 31, 1999.  She now lives in Monaco and has recently sold her London apartment. Many of its furnishings were auctioned for charity. Two very popular 'Audiences with Shirley Bassey' have aired on British TV, the most recent being in March 2006. Bassey returned to perform in five arenas around the UK in June 2006, culminating at Wembley. A new single, 'The Living Tree', is scheduled for release, with an album of new material due soon after.

In November 2016, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama announced the naming of the Shirley Bassey Studio in celebration of Bassey's long-standing support for young Welsh singers studying at the College. She was awarded France's top honor, the Legion d'Honneur, to signify her popularity and importance in the culture of France. Bassey was awarded the freedom of her hometown, Cardiff, in a ceremony at City Hall on 17 May 2019.

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