A bit late we wish Petula Clark a happy 75th
I remember Petula looking charming and gawky as she danced in her miniskirt in 60s television appearances, and a run through YouTube videos seems to bear me out, but her voice was devastatingly effective whether she was singing in English or French. It was the sort of voice that made you want to close your eyes, though that was not a good idea if you were behind the wheel of a car with the radio on.
With more than 70 million records sold worldwide, she is the most successful British female solo recording artist ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. She has spent more time on the international pop charts of any artist — 51 years — from 1954, when "The Little Shoemaker" made the UK Top Twenty, to 2005, when her CD L'essentiel - 20 Succès Inoubliables charted in Belgium (Wiki).
Careerwise she never seemed to make a misstep, one thing always led to another, but that was talent not luck. As a little girl she first sang in her church choir and then in a department store for a tin of toffee and a gold wristwatch. In October 1942, when she was nine, she attended a BBC broadcast with her father, hoping to send a message to an uncle stationed overseas. During an air raid, the producer asked for someone to sing, and Clark volunteered "Mighty Lak a Rose" . It was the beginning of over 500 appearances to entertain the troops. The RAF and the United States Army made her a mascot.
In 1946, she launched her television career with an appearance on a BBC variety show, which led to her being signed to host her own afternoon series, Petula Clark, followed over the decades by others. In 1949, Clark branched into recording. In the 1950s she scored hit after hit in the United Kingdom.
In 1958, invited to appear at the Olympia in Paris, she was such a success she was invited to the office of Vogue Records to discuss a contract. There she found both a contract and a husband, Claude Wolff, and had huge French recording successes. Eventually she would record in German, French, Italian and Spanish. Englishmen might not speak foreign languages, but Englishwomen could certainly sing them.
In ’62 Petula sang "Ya Ya Twist" (a cover of the Lee Dorsey rhythm and blues song) and "Chariot". They became smash hits. In 1964 composer-arranger Tony Hatch flew to Paris with material he hoped would interest her, but she didn’t like it until he played a few chords of a song he wanted to write about New York. “Downtown” was born, and Petula became a hit in America.
She was a hit with my children’s generation. She had three children of her own and continued to make music and sell out.
All the best, Petula, and many happy returns.