Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey was born in 1937, the youngest of seven children, in the deprived docks area of Cardiff called Tiger Bay. Her mother was English and her father Nigerian at a time when racism was still very strong. They separated when she was three. At 15, she was working in a sausage factory and singing in working men’s clubs in the evenings. She was spotted by a London talent scout in 1953, but returned from her first big job, touring with the American show Hot From Harlem, pregnant. A mother at 17, she returned to London and to her singing. Her massive voice, and the oceans of emotion she poured into every song, scored her hit after hit, including no fewer than three James Bond themes.

But while her career went from strength to strength, her personal life was far from smooth. Her first marriage to her manager, Kenneth Hume, was short-lived, and their daughter drowned aged 21. Hume later committed suicide. But after more than 50 years in show business, an unbelievably youthful Bassey is still performing, wearing her trademark ‘waterfalls of diamonds’.