Since coming to prominence as a 16-year-old in 1953, she has sold 135 million records – more than any other woman. She is now, inevitably, starting to wind down, though not stopping.
Dame Shirley, who was born to an English mother and Nigerian father, was discovered as a teenager while singing in clubs in her native Cardiff. She is perhaps best-known for performing the theme songs to the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Moonraker (1979).
Biographer John Williams says,
We're never going to see another person like that. Coming from the kind of background that she did – and make no mistake, it was a very, very tough upbringing – it really gave her the impulse to get out. She started her career before rock and roll. After her initial hits in the 1950s, what she really wanted was to be a film star, but, frankly, that was one thing the colour of her skin was never going to allow her to do.”
Dame Shirley had kept her career on track despite a number of personal tragedies, including the suicide of her first husband and the death of daughter Samantha in 1985, Mr Williams during an interview with the BBC.
All the other divas looked at Shirley as the model of how to do it, of someone who had kept her career going.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.