Shirley Bassey – Biography

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The Welsh diva Shirley Veronica Bassey was born in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay (now Cardiff Bay), the seventh child of Henry Bassey, a seaman from Nigeria and Eliza who hailed from the North of England.

Shirley left school at the age of 15 to work in a local factory, but her singing career was to take off soon after when she left her Cardiff Home bound for London after being discovered by bandleader Jack Hylton. Here begins the history of her astonishing five decades at the top of the music industry.

She released her debut single The Banana Boat which reached the top 10 in early 1957. It was closely followed by Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me, and then Shirley’s first number one hit with As I Love You. In 1959 Shirley firmly established herself as a household name in America with As Long as He Needs Me from the show-stopper from Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! Acclaim on the top draw cabaret circuit followed but chart success was harder to attain.

All that changed when, in October 1964, Shirley dominated the charts both sides of the Atlantic with Goldfinger the theme for the third James Bond film. Further hits followed in the 1960s including
I (Who Have Nothing), Big Spender and No Regrets.

Her successful Goldfinger partnership with composer John Barry led to two further Bond theme collaborations, 1972's
Diamonds Are Forever and 1979's Moonraker.

The Welsh Diva’s ability to reinvent her look and her musical style while retaining her unique vocal quality means that she has achieved success and popularity throughout each decade. She consolidated her success with a younger dance audience in the late 1990’s following History Repeating when EMI released Diamonds Are Forever – The remix Album which featured some of her biggest hits reworked by artists including Nightmares On Wax, Groove Armada and Mantronix. In the same year Shirley was honoured in the Queen’s New Years Honour list, becoming Dame Shirley Bassey in recognition of her contribution to popular music.

Undoubtedly one of the world’s most glamorous performers, she continues to thrill audiences across the world and still returns to Wales for occasional appearances. She topped the bill at the opening of the Welsh Assembly in 1999, and performed the anthem World In Union with
Bryn Terfel for the Rugby World Cup in 2000. In 2004 she was one of the five internationally renowned Welsh performers honoured at the first Wales for the World awards to mark the opening of Wales Millennium Centre. It seems likely that Dame Shirley will continue to delight fans young and old for years to come with her unique sequin spangled dive-esque performances.


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