Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15: "Downtown" Petula Clark is 81-years-old today.

Born Petula Sally Olwen Clark in Epsom, Surrey, England, Petula First gained recognition in Great Britain as a child radio and film star during World War II.

Her father, Leslie, once jokingly said he came up with her first name by combining the names of two former girlfriends, Pet and Ulla. Her father introduced her to theatre when he took her to see Flora Robson in a 1938 production of Mary Tudor; she later recalled that after the performance "I made up my mind then and there I was going to be an actress . . . I wanted to be Ingrid Bergman more than anything else in the world."
Her first public performances were as a singer, performing with an orchestra in the entrance hall of Bentalls Department Store in Kingston upon Thames for a tin of toffee and a gold wristwatch, in 1939.
In October 1942, Clark made her radio debut while attending a BBC broadcast with her father, hoping to send a message to an uncle stationed overseas.
 She soon became a contemporary of child stars Anthony Newley and Julie Andrews, who entertained the British military during World War II. It is estimated that Clark performed more than 200 shows for British troops before she was nine years old.

When she was eleven, Clark hosted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio program Pet’s Parlour, on which she performed patriotic songs. In 1944 she starred in the patriotic film A Medal for the General.
Soon, Petula was considered England’s answer to Shirley Temple, performing on radio and for British armed forces audiences, and eventually performing at Great Britain’s World War II victory celebration at Trafalgar Square.

Petula made her film debut in 1944, and was one of Britain’s first television stars in the late 1940s. In 1949 she launched a recording career with "Music, Music, Music," and continued with such songs for children as "Where Did My Snowman Go" in 1952 and "The Little Shoemaker" in 1954. She went on to international stardom in the 1960s through a succession of recordings that included the Grammy Award-winning hits "Downtown," "I Know a Place," "Don’t Sleep in the Subway," "Color My World," and "My Love."

After the war, Clark became one of Britain’s first television stars. While she was admired throughout the country for her singing on radio, film, and television, Clark surprisingly didn’t begin a recording career until 1949, when she released her first single, "Music, Music, Music" (a major United States hit single for Theresa Brewer). She continued to record singles in the 1950s, but achieved success only with songs for children. Several of these, however, were successful, including "The Little Shoemaker."

She worked to overcome the public’s perception of her as a child star through the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s by performing more rock-oriented material, including "Sailor" and "My Friend the Sea." She was invited to perform at the Olympia Theatre in France in 1957, and began to expand her appeal outside England and throughout Europe. Her 1961 single, "Romeo," was a million seller.

In 1961 Clark married Frenchman Claude Wolff, who convinced her to move to France to embark on a recording career there. She became a French sensation, rivaling Edith Piaf as the country’s favorite popular recording star with such hit singles as "Ya-Ya Twist," "Chariot," and "Monsieur." The release of these singles also signaled a new approach to
Clark’s recording and performing featured higher production values, more sophisticated songs, and a greater emphasis on her range as a soprano. She ambitiously recorded songs in Italian and German, becoming one of Europe’s most recognized and better-loved performers.


(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

Ultimate Petula ClarkClassic CollectionPetula Clark - Live at the Paris OlympiaPetula Clark - A Sign of the Times
Rather than simply recording covers of her previous hits in different languages—an approach that was successful for such acts as the Beatles—Clark insisted on recording songs unique to the language and country in which they were released.

By 1964 the international musical landscape had changed, and British acts were having tremendous success in America during what was called the British Invasion. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Freddy and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the Animals were selling more records abroad than they were in Europe. Clark orchestrated her own American invasion with her 1964 recording of the Tony Hatch composition, "Downtown."

Released in the United States, it became a number-one hit, appealing to audiences of all ages. This was the first collaboration between Clark and Hatch. Future collaborations also included "Don’t Sleep in the Subway" and "I Know a Place." Each of these songs made excellent use of Clark’s warm, crystalline soprano and focused on positive themes of interpersonal connection.

During this period of enormous international popularity, she continued to host her own British television series as well as American television specials. For her 1968 NBC special, she refused to capitulate to the network’s Southern affiliates, who demanded that a segment featuring African-American singer and activist Harry Belafonte be removed for broadcast.

In the late 1960s she resumed her film career, starring with Fred Astaire in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed musical Finian’s Rainbow. She also starred opposite Peter O’Toole in a remake of Goodbye Mr. Chips.


Clark’s string of hits ended abruptly in the 1970s, but she continued to perform on European television, hosted two television variety programs for the BBC, and made personal appearances in the States, Canada, and France.

 In the 1980s she recorded a top-ten country single, "Natural Love." She also appeared in a London West End revival of the Sound of Music (1981), wrote the music for her starring role in the musical play Someone Like You (1990), and made her Broadway debut in 1993 in Blood Brothers with Shaun and David Cassidy; in September of 2000 she starred as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical version of the film Sunset Boulevard.

For more about Petula, visit her Website at -


No comments:

Post a Comment