Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey was the sixth and last child of Henry Bassey and Eliza Jane Start born on the 8th of January 1937 in Cardiff, Wales. A famous singer, she found fame in the mid-1950s and has been called “one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century”.
Of mixed-race heritage (with an English mother and a Nigerian father), Bassey reached a level of international acclaim that few other black British performers had seen before her. In 1952, Bassey left school to work in a factory.
She also sang in pubs, and, at 16, was cast in a musical revue. Those performances came to an end when she got pregnant. But, after giving birth and leaving her daughter Sharon in the care of a sister, Bassey soon started to perform again.
In 1963, Bassey gave birth to another daughter, Samantha. Just as with her first child, she wouldn’t name Samantha’s father. Bassey married twice, to Kenneth Hume and Sergio Novak, but both marriages ended in divorce. Kenneth Hume was openly homosexual and denied fathering any of her children born during their marriage.
In 1957, she had her first hit with “Banana Boat Song.” Her worldwide popularity took off when she sang “Goldfinger” for the 1964 James Bond movie of the same name. She also sang the theme songs for two other Bond films, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.
Dame Shirley was at the top of her profession, and she has remained there ever since. Her records were selling in huge quantities around the world while her international concert and cabaret appearances were always guaranteed sell outs.
Following in the footsteps of her idol Judy Garland, Dame Shirley’s regular headlining appearances at the famous concert venue Carnegie Hall in New York became legendary.
Las Vegas, Australia, Europe and the Far East were also demanding Dame Shirley’s singing talents, and soon her British fans had to be content with seeing her in the country for just a few weeks every year, due to overseas touring commitments.
Dame Shirley’s career has gone from strength to strength and she is still in huge demand by audiences all over the world. A constant traveller Dame Shirley has lived in Switzerland, L.A, Spain and Monte Carlo but has always returned to the U.K. where she maintains a home.
Her favourite songs are Fever by Peggy Lee, The Wonder Of You by Elvis Presley, Back To Black by Amy Winehouse, Have I Told You Lately by Rod Stewart, Night Fever by The Bee Gees, I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Frank Sinatra, We Don’t Need Another Hero by Tina Turner, The Man That Got Away by Judy Garland and All By Myself by Celine Dion.
Throughout most of the 1980s, Bassey focused on charitable work and performing occasional concert tours throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States, having ended her contract with EMI-United Artists and taking what she referred to as “semi-retirement”.
I she also had a charity auction at Christies in 2003. “Dame Shirley Bassey: 50 Years of Glittering Gowns” raised £250,000 (US$500,000) for the Dame Shirley Bassey Scholarship at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Noah’s Ark Appeal.