Still Singing, Petula Clark Turns 90

by Kevin Burton

   Did you know Petula Clark has a new single?  Well, it’s her birthday today so let’s help her celebrate.

   That’s 90 candles on the cake today for Petula, if you’re counting. She was born on this day in 1932 in Ewell, England. That’s 68 million records sold, if you’re doing that kind of counting.

   Clark has been recording since 1949 according to her discography, her first offering being “Put Your Shoes On, Lucy,” a novelty song about a young girl in the big city. 

   We know Clark from a string of hits in the 1960s She was the English girl giving us sensible advice such as “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.”

   Her other hit songs include, “My Love,” “I Know A Place,” “Color My World,” “Downtown,” “A Sign Of The Times,” and “The Other Man’s Grass.”

   Clark was popular in all of Europe, not just England, and has also has German, French, Italian and Spanish-language hits. 

   At the height of her fame, she made a major contribution on American television, as recounted in her Wikipedia entry.

   “In 1968 NBC-TV invited Clark to host her own special in the US, and in doing so, she inadvertently made television history. While singing a duet of ‘On the Path of Glory.’ an antiwar song that she had composed, with guest Harry Belafonte, she took hold of his arm, to the dismay of a representative from the Chrysler Corporation (the show’s sponsor), who feared that the moment would incur racial backlash from Southern viewers.”

   “When he insisted that they substitute a different take, with Clark and Belafonte standing well away from each other, Clark and the executive producer of the show—her husband, Wolff—refused, destroyed all other takes of the song, and delivered the finished program to NBC with the touch intact.”

    “The Chrysler representative was terminated, and the program aired on April 8, 1968, four days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., with high ratings, critical acclaim, and a Primetime Emmy nomination.”

   The new tune is called “Luminescent” and it is credited to The John Williams Syndicate with Petula Clark. 

   The song came out in February of this year, but we’ll go ahead and call it new. 

   The song is listenable.  It’s not oh here’s a famous singer who used to have a good voice.  She sounds pretty good.

   It’s a song with good if not memorable music that leaves the lyrics out there to be noticed and considered.   I don’t know who wrote the song, if it was Clark or somebody else, but the writer seems to be searching for meaning in life, maybe not quite finding it.

   Some of the lyrics:

   “We’re coming alone, leave here the same, just trying to find a way.  We are golden, with silver shadows. We only know we’re truly alive just as we run out of time.”

   “So we hold on until we’re ready. We walk this earth, bearing the beams of light, luminescent.”

   The song seems hopeful, but inconclusive.  More lyrics:

   “How do we know if it’s here to stay? Can it be real if we feel no pain? This is love. Is it wring to wanna feel this way? Why are the simple things so hard to say? This is love.”

   “Take me apart a piece at a time and tell me what you see inside.  My eyes are open and my heart is beating. I need you now. So we can be together in this brave world, right here, right now.”

   I’m in the market for new songs by stars of the past, or even old songs that sat in a record company vault and nobody has heard before.  I’m looking for songs written in that 60s-70s style. 

   Songs like that are gems.

   A friend let me know about a Queen song that was never released until recently.  It’s called “Face It Alone.” The song is truly dreadful, a real drag, but when you hear about a new/old Queen song you’re going to check it out.

   So it’s good to know Petula Clark is still making music. Happy 90th and many more.

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