Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fab Girls of the 60s: Brit Singers

The British Invasion of the 60s introduced millions of young Americans to mega hit Brit wonders like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others. I remember landing at JFK, an impressionable 13 year old, thinking the Beatles were here! But there were also a number of successful female vocalists we were introduced to as well. And here are a few that are unforgettable…

Marianne Faithfull

Just out of convent school Marianne Faithfull performed folk music in nearby coffeehouses. She soon found herself with a number one hit record As Tears Go By written by
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Unfortunately her life did not follow a rose strewn path. Faithfull’s success as a singer and actress were overshadowed by her personal history littered with drug addiction, a hard partying lifestyle and illness. In the 60s her voice, soft and feathery, became over time more like hard whiskey. But in this clip you can see her as I saw her then, sweet and fresh faced, a little awkward in front of the camera, vulnerable and I'm sure, full of dreams.

Sandie Shaw

Sandie Shaw’s first single did not do well on the charts but her second Always Something There to Remind Me, a
Burt Bacharach tune, spent three weeks in the number one spot of the British Charts. Sandie’s other chart breaking song was Puppet on a String. She was noted for performing in her bare feet and her 1991 autobiography was titled The World at My Feet. Sandie left performing and went on to become a psychotherapist. In 2007 on her 60th birthday she released a new version of Puppet on a String for her fans.

Cilla Black was discovered by Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager and her success as an artist lasted longer than any other Epstein client other than the Beatles! She became a formidable ballad singer but before that Cilla worked part-time as a cloackroom attendant at Liverpool’s infamous Cavern Club. She was introduced to Epstein by John Lennon who persuaded him to audition her. Her first single peaked at #35 not a very auspicious beginning but her second single Anyone who Had a Heart reached #1 in Britain. She followed up with a second #1 You’re My World. During the 70s Cilla began acting in British sitcom and eventually worked as a TV presenter on many popular British TV shows.

Dusty Springfield

I was a big fan of Dusty Springfield’s look, especially her eyes. In 1963 Dusty started racking up number 1 hits with I Only Want to Be With You, I just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself, Wishin’ and Hopin’ and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Dusty toured South Africa in 1964 and was deported due to the fact she was performing in front of mixed audiences. In 1967 her rendition of The Look of Love, a Bacharach and David tune, was featured in the film Casino Royale and was nominated for an Academy Award. The sublime LP, Dusty in Memphis was released in 1969 and included the hit Son of a Preacher Man. In the 80s Dusty was persuaded to record a duet with the Pet Shop Boys, What Have I Done to Deserve This, which became a huge hit. In 1994 Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer and although she went into remission she succumbed to the disease in 1999 on the day she was to receive an OBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.


Who didn’t fall in love with Lulu in
To Sir With Love? I was a huge fan of the movie (I have the VHS tape) and Lulu herself. She was just so energetic and full of life and a singer-songwriter, actress, model and TV personality. She is most well known for the songs To Sir With Love in the US and Shout in the UK. Lulu was only 15 when she recorded Shout. Lulu married singer Maurice Gibb but the couple divorced on amicable terms in 1973. In 1974 she recorded the title song for the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. In 1977 she married her hairdresser John Frieda and had a son Jordan. The couple divorced in 1995. Lulu has appeared as herself in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and has teamed with French and Saunders many times. She appeared on American Idol Season 6 in March 2007 as a mentor for the female contestants, and the following night performed To Sir With Love.

I can remember driving my mother crazy playing my 45 rpm single of My Boy Lollipop over and over and over again. It was such a happy, upbeat song and Millie Small had the most unusual voice! Millie Small was originally from Jamaica where she had a minor hit record. She moved to London in 1964 and released My Boy Lollipop which initially sold over 600,000 copies and reached number two in the UK and US charts. The song has since sold more than seven million copies. She had a brief relationship with Peter Asher, one-half of the successful duo Peter and Gordon, and the brother of actress Jane Asher (Paul McCartney’s girlfriend in the 60s).

Stay tuned for Fab Girls of the 60s: Fashion Models.


  1. Hi Bonnie! Boy, do I remember these ladies! I especially loved Marianne Faithfull. Did you see her in "Marie Antoinette"? She was unrecognizable as Marie-Thérèse. What wonderful songs came from these women!! Thanks for the reminder!...hugs...Debbie

  2. Bonnie,
    This was wonderful! What a great trip down memory lane and a praiseworthy tribute to these pioneer women of pop song. I can remember everyone you mentioned except Millie Small.

    The 1960s is to this very day my favorite era of the 20th century, though I was too young to participate in the revolutionary concerts (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock, etc) and social movements. But these things along with the first landing on the moon, TV and film, etc., so inspired me as a kid.

    Three of my favorite female pop songs of this era were "Snowbird" (1970) by Canadian-born Anne Murray; "Downtown" (1965) by British invasion megastar Petula Clark; and "Goldfinger" theme song of the title James Bond movie by goddess Shirley Bassey, who apparently is still the best selling female British artist to date.

    It's hard to believe that Murray was born in 1945, Bassey in 1937, and Clark in 1932!

    Oh how I miss the sense that a new era was upon us with limitless possibilities for a society (despite all the social upheaval) framed by freedom of expression over conformity, love over hatred, peace over war.

    Thank you,

  3. Bonnie! I finally got into this blog! I have had trouble even getting into the comment page....I just love all of these singers. I remember LuLu so much from To Sir with Love. What a great time; I was just a kid, but I was on the cusp of preadolescence and it was so fun trying to grow up listening to this music. The Bhive ROCKS!!! Anita

  4. Oh! P.S., The Tea Rat is an excellent bowling champ, isn't he? Tee hee......Thanks for playing with him. Anita