In 1954, Shirley Bassey was seventeen years old. She had just returned from a cheesy revue tour called ‘Hot from Harlem’. Depressed, disillusioned and four months’ pregnant, she decided that her dream of being a professional singer was over. A mere ten years later, she was one of the biggest stars in the world. She had sold more records than any other British singer of the day, and was poised to conquer America. Her latest hit, ‘Goldfinger’, was the theme tune to the year’s blockbuster film. No longer the two-bit jazz singer from Cardiff, she was by now an international sex siren, as glamorous and unreal as Bond himself.
Miss Shirley Bassey explores this remarkable transformation, both of an individual and of the British society and British psyche that made it possible. From the vibrant, multicultural oasis of Tiger Bay in the Cardiff docklands through the club-lands of Soho and Las Vegas to New York’s Carnegie Hall, it is a journey from mere mortal to international icon. Along the way she would encounter homosexual husbands, predatory managers, newspaper scandals, and a range of friends and acquaintances from Sammy Davis Jr to Reggie Kray.
John L. Williams draws on original research and interviews to provide a portrait of a young woman on the cusp of stardom, whose rise to fame was in many ways symbolic of a changing world. Brilliantly written non-fiction in the style of David Peace’s The Damned Utd or Nick Tosches’ Dino, this is the story of a woman who set out to be extraordinary and – against all the odds – succeeded.