Today is Shirley Bassey's 77th Birthday, so let's step back in time to 1963 with this article from Ebony Magazine, promoting her 5th U.S. Tour.
British bombshell wins new acclaim while on fifth visit to United States
"A MUSICAL high priestess of soul and sex,” “a colored spark H of electricity,” “die hottest thing to hit London since the German blitz.” Thus, traditionally staid Britons throw conservatism to the winds when describing British-bom Shirley Bassey, a torch singer who parlayed on-stage “wickedness” into wealth anti international acclaim.
Photo: Mocking Innocence, Shirley displays Inexhaustible stock of facial expressions.
Photo: Occasionally naughty and flippant, singer is often compared with Eartha Kltt.
Recently, while on a whirlwind U.S. visit—the fifth in her 10-year career—the slender, clarion-voiced entertainer of Welsh and African extraction added new laurels to the fame she had built abroad and at home. Immediately upon opening in New York, she had Gotham critics raving like their English counter-: parts. “A delight to the ear as well as the eye,” wrote one. “The best British supper club entertainer that England has sent us in years, wrote another. “A tawny tigress . . . excitinq and in-tense added a third- “The Plaza's Persian Room (where she appeared last December) has struck it rich again.” proclaimed another. "Shirley Bassey- the dynamic little British import with her stereophonic vocalizing, is a delight to the ear as well as the eye..."
An explosive mixture of Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and Judy Garland, Shirley belted her way to international fame with a suggestive songs that sent eyebrows upward throughout the British Isles. Only a saucy adolescent of 18 seven years ago, she exploded with Who Wants To Help Me Burn My Candle At Both Ends? When Britons blushingly accepted the challenge, her fortune was made. “It's hard for me to be bigger in England than I am now,” she cockily sizes up her success.
Although she has toned down her repertoire since hitting it big, there are many who feel that she is still “burning her candle at both ends.” Their opinions are fueled by rumors of a sizzling romance with Frank Sinatra (denied by both), and her admitted passion for fast, white Jaguars, high-fashion clothes and mink. Vet, beneath the scintillating facade that keeps gossip columnists in high gear is a serious, often lonely person, who sorrowfully confides: “I’ve collected more grief in the few short years I’ve been in show business than most people in a lifetime.”
Photo: When turning sensuous and soulful, Briton has U.S. counterpart In Lena Horne.
Photo: Full-throated voice of torch singer has been likened to that of Judy Garland.
Photo: Hollywood actor Van Johnson, who caught Shirley’s act at New York City's Plaza Hotel, smiles for Polaroid snapshot after congratulating singer in her hotel suite.
Photo: Post-show guests include (l. to r.) Brazilian singer Rosina Pagan, jazz critic Nat Hentoff and composer Lionel Dart. Singer (r.) huddles with columnist Earl Wilson.
Photo: Plaza Hotel executive Paul Sonnabend joins well-wishers in performer's suite. Shirley says that, despite initial fears. U. S. race problem “hasn't affected me so far.”
CONFLICTS MAR SINGER'S LIFE
SHIRLEY Bassey’s meteoric rise from a $9-a-week factory worker in the tough Tiger Bay dockside section of Cardiff, Wales, to Britain's highest-paid entertainer at $350,000-a-year has often been likened to that of France’s Edith Piaf. But during her relatively brief career, she has engendered more controversies, criticism and conflict than any half dozen comparable personalities in the entertainment field.
In 1956, she was reported missing, but later showed up and confessed that it was all a publicity stunt. When she was 20, a jilted, gun-toting suitor held her prisoner in a London hotel until 30 bobbies flushed him out and sent him to jail. At one time, she knocked a filling out of the mouth of a night club owner during a squabble over a bill. On another occasion, two men outside a London night club shot it out with pistols, presumably over her. In 1958, she made headlines again when the story of a secret daughter, born out of wedlock when she was 18 years old, was leaked to the press.
When she married English TV producer Kenneth Hume in 1961, the press had a field day again, but even more so when 17 months later she announced that her marriage was on the rocks. “I have old-fashioned notions about love,” she explained. “That's why I’ve been hurt so often , . . Marriage isn’t easy—not for someone like me.”
Photo: At Tiger Bay dock near her birthplace, star spends quiet moment of reminiscing, following her first big success. Now a woman of expensive tastes, she says she worked hard "to have nice things.”
Photo: In dingy Cardiff pub where she began career singing before sailors and workers for $3 a night, Shirley (then 19) demonstrates style that made her toast of London During recent engagement in New York she was paid $4,000 for week’s work
Photo: At family reunion after Erst triumph, Shirley gives special performance for Bassey clan. Her Welsh mother (seated) divorced star's Nigerian father when Shirlcv was three. They had seven children.
Photo: Sassy Miss Bassey kicks up musical storm in 1959 London revue. Once, explaining her style, she said: “Marilyn Monroe can't help walking with a wiggle; I can't help singing with one.”
Photo: Shlrley's “discoverer," Mike Sullivan, gets hug from protege in 1956 (left). At right, she points teasingly at nose of TV producer husband Kenneth Hume, who recently was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt when she called off their marriage.
Photo: Teen-age star (4th r.) of Such J.s Life musical is joined by cast during finale. Singer, who has toured Australia three times, plans another trip “down under,” calls it her "second home"
Photo: Gotham disc jockey William B. Williams of Radio WNEW discusses star’s new records during interview while show's producer, Bob Hodges, looks on. Star has large pop repertoire.
Photo: With her secretary and friend, Hazel Graham of London, Shirley dines in her New York suite while both watch television. In past, star has been seen by millions in U. S. on Ed Sullivan and Garry Moore Shows.
[Source: Ebony. March 1963, Vol. 18 Issue 5, p108-113. Copyright © 1963 Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.]