Petula Clark’s New Songs Offer Good Advice for 2018
Petula Clark’s 1964 song, “Downtown,” burnished modern urban life into a smash hit. In 2017, she’s back at age 85 with new music and lots of stories.
How incredible is it to be 85 years old and still have a contract with a major record label? Not only has the British singer just released her 62nd album, but she is also in the middle of her first major U.S. tour. And Petula’s got some sage wisdom for the rest of us in these turbulent times: Live for today, she says.
Petula Clark’s 1964 song, “Downtown,” burnished the vibrancy of modern urban life into the minds of everyone who grew up hearing the smash hit. She was 32 years old when she recorded the tune written by then 25-year-old English songwriter, Tony Hatch. Now, more than fifty years later, the two are still collaborating. Clark’s latest album, Living for Today (released in November 2017), features their song, “The Rainbow,” which she wrote with her longtime friend: “I’m no longer afraid to express what I think and feel in a song,” she says of the track’s love-and-peace vibe.
Clark spent the early part of her career as a child actress and singer in England, moved to France as a young adult, and became a huge star in Europe and around the world. She now lives part-time in Switzerland, and has recorded hundreds of songs, many in other languages. In late 1950s Paris, she befriended Charlie Chaplin and remembers the popularity and influence of the legendary Edith Piaf; by the time Clark recorded Hatch’s “Downtown” a few years later, she was a married woman with two small children. At that time, she considered herself an interpreter of songs, not a writer.
“Writing songs was something that never would have occurred to me,” Clark says. “But one day, Tony asked me to write a piece of music. So I did, and it set me off on a whole new journey.” The two wrote the 1965 hit, “You’re the One;” together; in 2013, at the age of 81, Clark scored a Top-20 hit in Belgium with her song, “Cut Copy Me.” “These days,” she says, “I enjoy songwriting almost as much as singing, but only when it comes to me naturally.”
Clark’s career has spanned more than seven decades, and she began it all with her first film role in 1944 at age eleven. She later starred in 1960s films Finian’s Rainbow with Fred Astaire and Goodbye, Mr. Chips with Peter O’Toole. Yet, she says music is the constant thread in her life, the one which has added much flavor–and a bent toward social activism– to her long and storied stint in the limelight. Clark stood her ground in 1968 when NBC television executives insisted she cut footage of her performance of the anti-war number, “On the Path of Glory” from her television special after she physically embraced Harry Belafonte in the clip; in 1969, a meeting with John Lennon at a Montreal hotel ended up with her singing along in the chorus of the famous “bed-in” protest song, “Give Peace A Chance;” and her 2017 album’s title track, “Living for Today,” which she co-wrote, has a fun, spoken-word section about politicians who make bad decisions and render life more complicated. Her secret to longevity and sanity in an ever-changing world? Just keep on singing.
“I’m so fortunate to still be performing music. How many people can say they do what they enjoy day after day? Not many,” she says.
Petula Clark will perform at B.B.King’s Blues Club and Grill in New York City on December 26, 2017. For tour dates and more information about Petula Clark, click here.
(Photo courtesy of BMG)