Shirley Bassey performs 'Diamonds Are Forever' live in 2002
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Tonight ‘Shirley Bassey at the BBC’ will be broadcast on BBC Two from 8:10pm, as the legendary Welsh singer celebrates her 85th birthday. The programme will show a compilation of Dame Shirley’s performances from across her seven decades in show business, with the star having first began performing as a teenager in the early Fifties. It will feature some of Dame Shirley’s most iconic performances from ‘Show of the Week’, ‘The Shirley Bassey Show’ and from Glastonbury Festival fifteen years ago.
Dame Shirley was the first Welsh person to gain a number one single in the UK with ‘As I Love You’.
She then propelled herself to international attention after recording the theme songs for James Bond films Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker in the Sixties and Seventies.
However, after the death of her daughter, Dame Shirley’s expressive voice failed her.
In 1985, Samantha Novak’s body was found in the River Avon, near the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, aged 21.
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Yet Dame Shirley, who has always claimed that her daughter’s death was neither an accident nor suicide, quickly returned to performing a week after Samantha’s passing.
Speaking to David Walliams for the BBC, the singer admitted that the loss was “just devastating”, and that she had decided to perform as did not know what else to do.
Dame Shirley said: “It was just devastating. I went home and after a week of being alone I woke up one day and said, ‘I have to go back on stage, this is killing me’.
“I don’t know what I would have done with myself.
“And then came the show, and I walked on the stage and I opened my mouth to sing Goldfinger ‒ nothing came out.
“What had happened was, instead of staying home and grieving and getting it out of my system, I was singing it [grief] through the songs and I probably wasn’t breathing in the right places and panicking.”
The legendary singer then paid tribute to her vocal coach who helped strengthen her vocal cords and enabled her to resume her career.
Dame Shirley said: “For six months, I couldn’t sing at all.
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“Then a vocal coach ‒ Helena Shenel, who I thank so much ‒ I just worked with Helena doing these vocal exercises, strengthening my vocal cords.
“And after the year she said, ‘Do you know, I’ve discovered you’ve got another octave that you never use? I’ve never heard you sing that high’.
“And she did my spirit the world of good and my soul, and I went back on stage.”
The singer resumed her legendary career and in 2000 was appointed a Dame for services to the performing arts.
Some twenty years later, Dame Bassey released I Owe It All To You, and made history by becoming the first female artist to chart an album in the top 40 of the UK Album Charts in seven consecutive decades.
In the BBC interview, the ‘Big Spender’ star also told Mr Walliams that she had to stop her first manager giving her a “more showbiz” name.
Dame Shirley said: “We came to blows because he wanted me to change my name.
“And I said, ‘But if I change my name and I become famous, nobody will know who I am.
“I was dead against it, and I am glad I did put my foot down.”
Watch ‘Shirley Bassey at the BBC’ from 8:10pm on BBC Two.
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