Back in the lime­light

English singer Pe­tula clark is back down­town.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Su­San King

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

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