English singer, composer and actress Petula Sally Olwen Clark was born on the 15th of November 1932 to parents Leslie Norman Clark, and mother, Doris (Phillips) Clark. She started singing at seven, made her radio debut at nine, appeared at the Royal Albert Hall at 11, and has sold 70 million records with hits including Downtown, I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love and Don’t Sleep In The Subway.In October 1942, nine-year-old Clark made her radio debut while attending a BBC broadcast with her father.
She was there in the hope of sending a message to an uncle stationed overseas, but the broadcast was delayed by an air raid. During the bombing, the producer requested that someone perform to settle the jittery theatre audience, and she volunteered a rendering of “Mighty Lak’ a Rose” to an enthusiastic response.
She then repeated her performance for the broadcast audience, launching a series of some 500 appearances in programmes designed to entertain the troops.
She moved to France where she achieved success as a pop singer. Returning to England, UK in this new guise, she had hits with such songs as Downtown and Don’t Sleep in the Subway.
She is the first British solo artist to win a Grammy (for the Tony Hatch-penned “Downtown” in 1964). When the song topped the American charts, she became the first British female pop singer to have a number one hit single in the United States.
She has written dozens of songs, under both her own name and the pseudonym “Al Grant.” The best known is “You’re the One,” which was a major hit for fellow Warner Brother’s recording artists The Vogues.
In August 1981, she opened in “The Sound of Music” in London’s West End with what was then the largest advance sale in British theatre history.
What was originally intended to be a six-month run was extended to thirteen in order to accommodate public demand? 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.
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 onAmerican television.
In 1998 Petula was presented with a prestigious CBE. Over the years she has been involved with charities such as Broadway Cares, and Equity Fights AIDS. In both 1998 and 2002, Petula toured the UK extensively. She even took part in a one-woman show in Montreal highlighting her career and life in 2000.