Born November 15, with "a voice as sweet as chapel bells," Petula Clark first broke into the limelight during World War II when as a child she entertained the troops, both on radio and in concert. She is said to have performed in over 200 shows for the forces all over England before the age of nine and by war's end, Petula Clark--the British "Shirley Temple" who had come to represent childhood itself--was so popular in England she was asked to sing at a national victory celebration at Trafalgar Square. In 1944, Petula made her first movie and has since appeared in over 30 British and American films.
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Throughout the forties and fifties Petula was a regular guest on a vast number of radio shows and became something of a television "pioneer" in England, first appearing on experimental TV in the forties and later as host of several of her own television series during the very early years of British programming, with Pet's Parlour being her longest running and most popular. Although she sang regularly in concert, on radio and TV all through the forties, it wasn't until 1949 that she recorded her first song Music,Music, Music and that pretty much sums up her very prolific recording career.
She has never stopped recording --50 plus years and over a 1,000 songs and still counting! Her first hits were children's songs like Where Did My Snowman Go (1952) and The Little Shoemaker (1954). To date, she has sold well in excess of 68 million records.
In answer to the rock-and-roll craze of the late fifties, Petula recorded Sailor, Romeo and My Friend The Sea and was back on the charts again. In 1957, she was invited to sing at the famed Olympia theatre in France. After one song the French crowd went wild, and an entirely new career was launched.
Asked to record in French, Petula declined at first but was quickly persuaded to do so by Frenchman Claude Wolff with whom she fell madly in love - they were married in June 1961. (They have three children, Barra, Kate, and Patrick and recent grandson, Sebastien). By the early sixties, Petula found herself reinvented as a French chanteuse, even rivaling the legendary Piaf--during Piaf's own lifetime. (She is still classified as a "French" singer on the shelves in French and French-Canadian record stores.) In addition to her newfound French pop star status, Petula also began to enjoy success with the songs that she had begun to record in German and Italian. By the mid-sixties she'd established herself as superstar throughout Europe with Number One tunes sung in different languages in different countries all across the Continent. (Interesting to note, each of her early European hits were with entirely different songs--a feat not duplicated by any other singer since!)
Urged by her friends in Britain to record something in English, Petula allowed Tony Hatch to visit her in Paris where he presented his new song, Downtown. Petula recorded it and the rest is music history. Downtown skyrocketed to number 1 in the USA, launching Petula's American career and earning her a Grammy in 1964. She quickly followed with I Know A Place which went to number 3 and earned Petula her second Grammy in 1965. Numerous top 40 hits followed. All told, Pet has had 15 top 40 hits in the USA (two #1 hits). Internationally, Petula Clark has charted in the top 40 somewhere, sometime, with 159 recordings!
Her career caught up in a whirlwind, she has ridden it like the pro that she is. In the sixties, she starred in two Hollywood musicals (Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye Mr. Chips) opposite the likes of Fred Astaire and Peter O'Toole. Throughout the sixties she made numerous TV appearances both as a guest star and as the host of two popular variety series for British television, as well as three of her own American TV specials. She also continued a highly successful concert career, beginning with a sellout season at the Copacabana in 1966, at Caesar's Palace in Vegas and at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles before a star-studded audience that included Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra.
By the seventies she'd been well established as a Vegas superstar--garnering critical acclaim by both critics and the American public. She gave a series of concerts in France and Canada, made appearances on European TV, hosted two more popular variety series in England (for which she was awarded "Most Popular TV Star" by the TV Times) and continued to be a much sought after guest star on American television.
In the eighties she found fame as a country recording star with her top-10 hit Natural Love, before reinventing herself as a highly successful stage star in London's West End, beginning with the role of Maria in The Sound of Music and continuing with the production of her own musical Someone Like You, for which she wrote the music. Undaunted by the theatre's demanding schedule, Petula gave concerts on her one day off. (This kind of grueling schedule would not be unusual for Petula. This is a woman who in the fifties made films during the morning, appeared on the radio or made a record in the afternoon and gave concerts in the evening. In the sixties, sandwiched between concert seasons in Canada and America, recording sessions in Europe, and television hosting duties in England, she also found time to guest on a wide variety of American television shows. Dedication and hard work are her middle name.)
In the nineties Petula made her Broadway debut, starring opposite David and Shaun Cassidy in the highly successful production of Blood Brothers followed by a well-received American tour of the same production. In 1998 Petula returned to England, where she was presented with a prestigious CBE by her Majesty the Queen of England, in honor of Petula's legendary career. As of September 2000, Petula's most recent appearance on the stage was in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, in the starring role of Norma Desmond, a role she has now played more than any other actress to date.
Interviewers often ask her how she remains so "well based" throughout her hectic life. Petula always explains it away by saying "this is what I do", as if singing before an audience of 6,500 that includes the Queen of England is no different than you and I packing a baloney sandwich and heading off to pull a 9 to 5 shift at work. If you ever have the good fortune to meet Petula in person, you will find yourself being greeted not by a prima donna, but by a shy caring person who strangely enough seems more interested in meeting you. Petula's genuine caring has been expressed over the years by the multitude of benefit concerts and other work she has done with such charities as UNICEF, CRUSAID, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, etc. [See "The Theatre" poem"]
On October 28, 2000 Petula presented a new one-woman show--a concert highlighting her life and career--to tremendous acclaim. The show made its debut at the St. Denis Theatre in Montreal, Canada.
In May 2001 she was spotlighted in a 2-hour concert spectacular as the finale to the month-long Virginia Arts Festival. The show was taped by PBS and was broadcast nationwide as part of the PBS pledge drives in December 2001.
2002 promises to be another busy year. After concerts in California and Europe, Petula has a recording session planned in the UK and will then spend much of the year touring both the UK and the US.
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