Music

Published: Tuesday December 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday December 10, 2013 MYT 8:06:44 AM

Petula Clark, 81, back in the limelight

Different take: Petula Clark’s new album, 'Lost In You', features a new version of her most popular hit 'Downtown'.

Different take: Petula Clark’s new album, 'Lost In You', features a new version of her most popular hit 'Downtown'.

English singer Petula Clark is back Downtown.

AFTER nearly seven decades in the business, several Grammys and countless hit records in the 1960s such as Downtown and I Know A Place, Petula Clark believes she’s “beginning to get the hang” of singing.

“I tell you what, I get more enjoyment out of it now,” said Clark, who turned 81 last month. “I am singing better now. This is just a bit of luck. I don’t do anything for it. I don’t warm up. I just go out and sing.”

The British singer recently returned from a tour of her homeland performing her classics, as well as tunes from her new CD, Lost In You. And she’s heading for Australia next year.

Her new disc features some of Clark’s own compositions, as well as a cover of Downtown, which, she said, is “a very different take on it”.

Clark also covers John Lennon’s Imagine, because, she said, she had a great rapport with the late Beatle. Clark met Lennon when he and Yoko Ono were staging a bed-in for peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada in 1969.

Clark was in Montreal at the time performing in concert. Because she had recorded songs in French before she hit the top of the charts in the 1960s in England and the United States, she decided to do a bilingual concert. But the audience wasn’t happy.

“When I was singing in English, the French weren’t pleased. When I sang in French, the English weren’t pleased.”

Though she didn’t know Lennon, Clark thought he might have some advice on how to deal with the Montreal audiences.

“I went over to his hotel, and the concierge recognised me,” she said.

“I just went in, and they were sitting in bed. John was so sweet and funny and totally got the problem. He put it in perspective.”

He also invited her to go into the living room and have a glass of wine.

“There were one or two people I knew and a few I didn’t,” she said. “There was this music going on. I didn’t realise at the time they were recording. We all started singing along with the music – it was Give Peace A Chance. So I just happen to be on the record. I think Timothy Leary was on it and one of the Smothers Brothers.”

Clark began singing and acting professionally as a child in the 1940s, appearing in several films, including 1952’s The Promoter with Alec Guinness.

With her recording success, Hollywood beckoned. She starred in two musical movies – 1968’s Finian’s Rainbow with Fred Astaire and 1969’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips opposite Peter O’Toole. (A very young Francis Ford Coppola directed Finian’s Rainbow, and George Lucas was his assistant.)

Astaire, she added, was a perfectionist. So much so that he stayed at Warner Bros on the weekends with his choreographer Hermes Pan to work on dance numbers.

“It was near the end of his career as a dancer,” said Clark. “He wanted it to be as good as he could be. He was funny. He loved pop music. We would sing together. Making that movie was one of the most joyful moments in my life.”

Clark also had a great time with comedy legend Charlie Chaplin. She had scored a huge hit with his tune This Is My Song, from his final film, 1967’s A Countess From Hong Kong.

Chaplin was so delighted with her interpretation of the romantic ballad that he asked to meet her.

“He lived not very far from us in Switzerland,” recalled Clark.

“I was thrilled to meet Charlie. He was sweet, lovely, funny and very English.”

The two had a “wonderful” afternoon together.

“We had some really good tea, I must say. He was so thrilled with the success of the song. It sort of turned into a party. His children came in. I played the piano, and they were dancing around the living room.” – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Petula Clark, music, 1960s, Downtown, new album, Lost In You

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