Petula Clark





Born November 15th, 1932 with a voice as clear as a chapel bell, Petula Clark first broke into the limelight during World War II, when, as a child, she sang for the troops in Piccadilly Circus. By war's end she was so popular in England she was asked to sing at a national victory celebration at Trafalgar Square in 1944. From there she went into movies, ultimately appearing in over thirty British and American films. Though she sang regularly on radio and TV as a child, and had her own TV show called Pet's Parlour at age 16, it wasn't until 1949 that she recorded her first song, "Music, Music, Music". Once she started, she never stopped recording, and in over sixty-five years she's laid down over a thousand songs and still counting! Her first hits were children's songs like "Where Did My Snowman Go" (1952) and "The Little Shoemaker" (1954). She followed with "Majorca" (1955), "Suddenly There's a Valley" (1955) and "With All My Heart" (1956), which were all major hits in the UK.

In answer to the Rock 'n' Roll craze of the late '50s, Pet recorded "Sailor" (UK #1), "Romeo" (UK Top Ten) and "My Friend The Sea" (UK Top Ten) and was back on the charts again. In 1961, Pet went to France to sing one song at a concert and they went wild over her. Asked to record in French, Petula declined at first, but was later persuaded to do so by publicist Claude Wolff, with whom she fell in love. They were married in June 1961 and had three children, Barra, Katy, and Patrick. Petula really matured as a singer on the Continent with smash hit after smash hit in French, German, and Italian. Urged by her friends in Britain to record something in English, Pet allowed British song writer Tony Hatch to visit her in Paris where he presented his new song, "Downtown". Pet recorded it and the tune instantly became a giant hit all across Europe, also becoming a chart topping single in America. She quickly followed with "I Know A Place" which went to #3. Petula received a Grammy for "Downtown" in 1964 and another for "I Know A Place" in 1965. In total, she placed fifteen songs on the Billboard Top 40 between 1965 and 1968, including "My Love" (#1 in 1966), "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" (#9 in 1966), "This Is My Song" (#3 in 1967) and "Don't Sleep In The Subway" (#5 in 1967). Internationally, Petula charted in the Top 40 with 159 recordings. At the height of her popularity, she appeared on the American programs, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, This Is Tom Jones, Here's Lucy, The Muppets, Shindig! and Hullabaloo. At the same time, she remained a huge star throughout Europe, topping the British charts in 1967 with "This Is My Song", taken from the film A Countess From Hong Kong. In addition to hosting her own BBC series, she also starred in the 1968 NBC television special Petula, which triggered controversy when sponsors requested that a segment where she held the hand of guest Harry Belafonte be cut in deference to Southern affiliates. Ultimately the show aired in its intended form. As the 1960s drew to a close, Clark's commercial stature slipped, although singles like "The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener" (#31) and "Kiss Me Goodbye" (#15) still charted on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1968 she revived her film career by starring in Finian's Rainbow, followed a year later by Goodbye, Mr. Chips. That same year she enjoyed her final Billboard Top 40 hit with "Don't Give Up", which came in at #37.

In later years Clark focused primarily on international touring, headlining the 1981 London revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. Additionally, in 1988, an acid-house remix of "Downtown" reached the UK Top Ten, another honor for the female singer awarded the most Gold records in British Pop history. After starring in the 1990 musical Someone Like You , which she also co-wrote, she made her Broadway debut in Blood Brothers in 1993. In 1997, Queen Elizabeth made Clark a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

As of the Fall of 2007, Petula, now 75, was splitting her time between homes in England, Switzerland and the U.S. While she had no economic need to tour, she still loved performing. Pet also continued to compose regularly and had two new albums released, "Duets", a compilation of some of her favorite duets between her and everyone from Bobby Darin to Peggy Lee and Dusty Springfield, as well as "Solitude and Sunshine", a studio LP of songs by Rod McKuen. She toured England and Wales in the Summer of 2008, followed by concerts in Switzerland and the Philippines. A compilation of her greatest hits and new compositions called "Then And Now" entered the UK album chart that June and won Clark her first-ever Silver Disc for an album. "Open Your Heart: A Love Song Collection", an LP of previously unreleased material and remixed recordings, was released in January 2009. A holiday album called "This Is Christmas" hit store shelves that November. In 2010, Petula toured Australia, New Zealand and Canada to packed houses. In November 2011, Clark, then 78, performed for 90 minutes at the Casino de Paris and had a full tour of Australia booked for the Spring of 2012. In August of that year she appeared as a guest on Radio 4 The Reunion.

January 2013 brought a new album entitled "Lost In You" that featured a remake of "Downtown" as well as a new tune called "Cut Copy Me", which had a 14-week run on the Belgium chart. The album got favorable reviews and entered the UK national album chart at #24 the following March. A busy concert schedule across Europe took the now 82 year old Petula into the Fall of 2014. On June 20th, 2015, she appeared with The Midtown Men at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, performing "Downtown". Petula released a new English language album called "From Now On" in October 2016 which she supported with a tour of the UK.

Over the course of her amazing career, Petula Clark has sold in excess of 68 million records.

For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with Petula Clark