One needn’t have been a fan of action/spy movies or have paid particular attention to music to know the song we share below:
To our knowledge, no one else has ever had a commercial success by covering the song, “Goldfinger,” no doubt because no one else could ever sing it the way Dame Shirley Bassey did.
What is in the water in Wales? We only ask because Welshman, Tom Jones, also had a robust set of vocal pipes to equal Shirley Bassey’s. The Welsh songstress, one of the most popular singers in Great Britain and known for that powerful voice, recorded three theme songs to three James Bond films (Moonraker, “Diamonds Are Forever, and especially Goldfinger). As it happens, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones are the only two Welsh artists (as of 2007) to have sung title songs from the James Bond series of movies.
This had to have been a most satisfying outcome for someone told more often than not to “shut up” as a child. Bassey got little encouragement to sing, but her strong voice was noticed, even if the music director of her school choir kept moving Bassey further away from the rest of the singers until she was singing from the hallway, such was the reach of her voice.
This didn’t work for Bassey, she had to sing. She left school at the age of fifteen to work in a enamelware factory by day, but sing in local clubs and pubs at night. She got her break in a Christmas show in London in 1955, and had her first British hit in 1957 with “Banana Boat Song.” It made her one of the first Black British entertainers to gain national and international fame.
By the time Bassey reached a certain age, she had been awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2000 Queen’s Millennium Honors List for her services to entertainment. She has sold over 130 millions records worldwide, and became the first Welsh artist ever to achieve a UK number one single with ‘As I Love You’ in 1959. The album she released in 2020, I Owe It To You All, made her the first female artist to have a charting album in seven consecutive decades.
Not bad for a kid with impoverished beginnings and a complicated life. The daughter of an English mother and a Nigerian seaman father whom she never knew, Bassey became pregnant at 16, and kept her baby (scandalous at the time), and after giving birth, she left her daughter in the care of a sister so she could be back to performing. When a talent agent heard her sing, he wasted no time in signing on to manage her career; that was when Shirley started to wear her signature look of glamorous gowns, and perform with a theatrical style. She had two marriages, both ending in divorce, and two children, one of whom died in 1985. The death was considered an accidental drowning, but Bassey always harbored doubts about that conclusion.
Shirley Bassey is 86 years old as we write, hard to believe of someone who has always been larger than life. We like to share the stories of legends, and point out the dogs who were their companions. For Shirley Bassey, the dogs were Poodles. When she married film director, Kenneth Hume, in 1961, her Poodle, Beaujolais, was there. Virtually all the images of Bassey with her dog are owned by Getty, and while we can’t share them on this page, you can get a peek here and here. The top image is an AI generated copyright free image by Dall-e.