A voice that just has to be heard

ANGI KENNEDY Lulu, the 1960s’ singing sensation who has just kept on going, is playing live in Norwich this weekend. Angi Kennedy looks at her extraordinary life story.


Her story sounds like the plot of a rags-to-riches novel. A poor, wee Scottish girl from the rough and ready Glasgow tenements becomes a teenage pop star and film star.

It is the 1960s and she is suddenly mixing with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

She falls in love with the Monkees' Davy Jones, and later marries Bee Gee Maurice Gibb. They divorce and she has an affair with David Bowie.

Her second marriage – to her hairdresser, John Frieda – also ends in divorce. But she still believes in love and is voted the sexiest over-


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She is friends with the rich and famous; she has fans across the generations and around the world. After years in television and cabaret, she relaunches her singing career and continues to go from strength to strength.

And what of the heroine of the tale? The word feisty could have been created for her – a petite powerhouse with a voice you cannot ignore.

She is, of course, Lulu and the extraordinary story is all true.

Born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie on November 3, 1948, no one could have foreseen such a remarkable life for the little girl whose father was a hard-drinking offal dresser at Glasgow Meat Market.

But she had a voice that demanded to be heard. Her first public performance was as a four-year-old, singing a song out of her window to the neighbours celebrating the Queen's coronation. By the time she was nine she was singing with a band.

The story goes that Marie Lawrie became Lulu when her manager was desperately trying to think up a stage name.

In exasperation she said: “All I know is she's a real lulu of a kid.” And suddenly Lulu it had to be.

She was still at school when she recorded Shout – what a way to arrive on the national pop scene!

It sent her straight to the heart of British music at its most exciting time.

Touring the country, meeting the stars and appearing on television – young Lulu lived the lifestyle millions of young girls would have killed for.

She starred in the film To Sir With Love, with Sidney Poitier, which went down a storm in America. And she was a joint winner of the Eurovision Song Contest with Boom Bang-A-Bang.

Marriage came early, to Maurice Gibb, and the couple lived a life of performing, travelling and entertaining. But the love didn't last and they broke up.

Not long before Maurice died of a massive heart attack in 2002, he and Lulu sang together for the first time in 17 years, performing a duet for the television show An Audience with Lulu.

Her marriage to John Frieda was another chapter in the Lulu story. Together they had a son, Jordan.

During their time together, she became a convert to Siddha yoga after many years of being interested in Eastern philosophy and spiritual teachings.

She still lived life at full pelt though. She survived a bad car crash, and spent nervous months not knowing if her voice would return after damaging her vocal chords during a West End performance of Song & Dance.

And there was more pain around the corner, when her marriage failed.

For Lulu it was a time of reassessing – she wasn't happy with the way her career was going and decided she wanted to get back to her roots. She also wanted to try her hand at song-writing.

The result was I Don't Wanna Fight, which Tina Turner used for the move of her life. It was nominated for a Grammy Award and an Ivor Novello.

Lulu was also relaunching her own career – the comeback single was Independence, which reached number one in the UK dance charts.

It seems strange to talk of comebacks when Lulu never seemed to go away. She is the only British female solo artist to hit the charts in five straight decades.

But Lulu believed she had sacrificed her credibility as a singer by her decision to keep the money coming in through light entertainment shows.

Since Independence, she has devoted herself to song determined to keep appealing to audiences, many of whom were not even born when she recorded Shout.

In recent years she has worked with Elton John, Sting, Ronan Keating, Samantha Mumba and Take That, to name a few.

Now in her mid-50s, Lulu has a new album Back On Track, showing she feels back in charge of her life and her career. She is as driven and sparky as ever.

Her appearance at the Norwich Theatre Royal this Sunday – which has been a sell-out for weeks – is certain to be a night to remember from the little Scottish girl who grew up to have her own special place in pop history.