Monday, January 8, 2018

Birthday Girl: The Dame

Insofar as a force of nature can have a birthday, Dame Shirley Bassey is doing so even as we speak - 81 going on eternal.

This is, I admit, not the most subtle rendition of what is often a delicate blossom of a song, but then again subtlety, by and large, is not Dame Shirley's stock in trade. She goes for the big note and the sweeping gesture, and more often than not it works. What keeps her from wretched excess (and its debilitating twin, self parody) is that she is also at heart an artist, and one remarkably self aware to boot. I always enjoy watching what's she doing while she's making those vast and invariably crowd-thrilling sounds.

Here, for example, she declaims the Comden-Green lyric as if it were "Goldfinger," pushing Styne's gentle tune out into the stratosphere. At the same time, though, what she's being (as opposed to singing) is a person who has more than an inkling of what it means when the party ends. Her expression at 3:25 - "it's all over" - stops time. She's gone from being a slightly tipsy good-time girl heading home to a woman dealing with a sudden glimpse of the abyss - albeit ("my FRIEND!") one who pulls it back together at the finish, at least one more great note in her.

As I'm quite sure she still has today. It breaks my heart I've never seen her live...


  1. Yes, it kills me too that I never saw her, maybe it's for the best. I wasn't wearing Depends back in the day, but surely would've needed them; especially if she'd done an encore.

  2. As always with Dame Shirl, all I can say is "Wow". I, too, am upset that I have never seen the uncrowned "Queen of Wales" in concert - and, believe me, we've had possible opportunities to do so several times but a combination of money and opportunity conspired against us each time. Now she's apparently "retired". Shame. Jx

  3. Surely some Gentle Reader has seen her perform and can assure us luckless ones, however falsely, that it wasn't All That?

  4. Can't recall if I've shared this with you previously? I've both seen her and had dinner with her. We have a mutual friend, one on whom Ms Bassey had quite a crush back in the day. He was terrified of her, and knew he'd drink too much, so I was roped in as designated driver. She was hilarious, swore like a trooper and told the filthiest jokes and anecdotes. We were maybe 10 around the table, so I didn't interact with her a whole lot, but it was a great night. A few years later we saw her perform, and afterwards, backstage, she passed by then paused. Peering at me, she purred "I remember you..", to the amusement and consternation of my friends, who 'till then had doubted my dinner story. Highlight of the performance, for all the wrong reasons, was her doing her own backups to "Diamonds are forever". She sang the line, then cocked her head to the side, going "forever, forever" into the back of her hand. V funny...

    1. To my knowledge, you hadn't, and even if you had, it's the sort of thing of which one never minds being reminded. Too much fun!