Close your eyes and place your finger on practically any year in Lulu’s life and times and you’ll find a memorable landmark, a surprising collaboration or a tune you can’t get out of your head. In 2005, it’s happening again.
As her indestructible career marches on in its fifth decade, Lulu’s putting her unmistakable stamp on some of the soul songs that mean the most to her with a new single and album, executive produced by a great friend with whom she’s touring throughout June. His name is Elton John.
Lulu’s new album is called ‘A Little Soul In Your Heart’, and in her case that’s quite an understatement because she’s got plenty for everyone. For this very special project, the original Scottish dynamo has hand-picked a juicy bunch of landmark songs of the 1960s and ’70s, originally recorded by the artists who helped to write the dictionary of soul.
We’re talking about hallowed material that was first delivered by some of the groundbreaking artists and songwriters of the vintage era of old-school soul. ‘A Little Soul In Your Heart’ is a personal bouquet from Lulu to some of her favourite singers, from Otis Redding and Sam Cooke to the Four Tops and Sam & Dave — not to mention some of the women who shone the light for a teenage girl from Lennox Castle, Glasgow, such as Doris Troy and Betty Everett.
As she’s been proving every day since 1965, and now underlines every Sunday afternoon on her Radio 2 show, Lulu is all about great songs, and they don’t come much greater than ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, ‘You Send Me’, ‘Go Now’ or ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’.
For starters, on August 1, there’s the single ‘Put A Little Love In Your Heart’, memorably revived in the late 1980s by the mighty Reverend, Al Green, with Annie Lennox, but taken into the US top five two decades earlier by Jackie DeShannon.
The whole project has come together under the keen eye of someone who’s been massively successful on both sides of the studio window. Simon Climie, once a hitmaker as one half of Climie Fisher and then the co-writer of anthemic pop songs like ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, has become one of Britain’s most in-demand producers in recent years, his talents used by Eric Clapton, BB King and Michael McDonald, whose million-selling ‘Motown’ set he masterminded.
And so the amazing story of Marie MacDonald McLaughlin Lawrie begins another exciting chapter. This time last year, Lulu sailed past her 40th anniversary as a chart artist still demanding new challenges. It was May of 1964 when her voice beat down the barricades of the UK bestsellers for the first time with a bold-as-brass cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ that made a nonsense of her tender age of 15. From the first notes of that first hit we knew her instantly, and we’ve known her ever since.
The next five years would bring five more top ten singles in the UK and a residency in the hearts of British record-buyers and TV viewers. Lulu also won a rare placecard, among UK solo artists, at the top table of the American charts with ‘To Sir With Love’, co-starring in the film with Sidney Poitier and spending five weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless title song.
The ’60s continued to be a whirl of hits, tours and TV, everything from touring with the Beach Boys and guest-presenting ‘Top Of The Pops’ to appearing at the Royal Variety Show (and all of that was just 1967). In 1969, she left Columbia to sign for Atco, the subsidiary of the legendary Atlantic label, where she worked with production giants Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd.
Her career journey has enough twists and turns to be on the F1 circuit. From using David Bowie as a producer and sax player, on ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, to placing her debut hit back in the UK top ten in a new version almost 20 years later. From her stage and TV work of the 1980s in ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4’, to collaborating with the hottest boy band on the block and scoring her first-ever British No.1 with Take That on ‘Relight My Fire’. And from co-writing a world-beating song for Tina Turner with her brother Billy (‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’) to recording an entire album of superstar collaborations with Elton, Sting, Paul McCartney, Ronan Keating and another soul legend, Bobby Womack.
That ‘Duets’ album of 2002 is part of a non-stop noughties to date for Lulu, followed by a greatest hits set in 2003 and the new ‘Back On Track’ set last year.
After two tours in 2004 behind that album, she’s just completed a set of dates at the nation’s soccer stadia with Sir Elton - playing Bolton, Coventry, Stoke, Huddersfield, even Elton’s beloved Watford, and beating them all.
So, on again to the next challenge, with the fiery spirit of that 15-year-old still burning. Lulu’s ready to make us shout, a little bit louder now. with an album to put a little soul in your heart.
What they say about Lulu.
Elton John - 'Lulu is and always has been one of my favourite female singers, she is vocally an inspiration'
James Brown - 'The first time I heard you sing, Lulu, I knew we were born in the same pond'
Mark Lamar - 'Lulu is defiantly the best female singer we have in the UK. The problem is they don't know it'
Holland Dozier & Holland - 'We've never heard our songs sung better than you sang them tonight Lulu'
Roger Davies - 'Lulu sings brilliantly, I'm always impressed'
West Life - 'Lulu is a role model to others, she is such a star'
‘Shout’, Lulu’s debut hit in 1964, first charted for the Isley Brothers in the US in 1959 and then again in 1962, and 60’s versions by Joey Dee & The Starliter and the Chambers Brothers also made the Billboard Hot 100.
Lulu is the only female artist to have appeared on Top Of the Pops in each of the last five decades.
Lulu landed her role in ‘To Sir With Love’ when director James Clavell came to see her on a London bill with the Beach Boys and immediately decided to cast her in the film.
‘To Sir With Love’ entered the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week in September 1967 as Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man’ and, a few weeks later kept it off the No.1 spot.
Lulu’s first smash hit as a song writer was ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ recorded by Tina Turner, which reached No. 7 in 1993 and received Ivor Novello and Grammy nominations.
Lulu was the first British female singer to appear live behind the Iron Curtain, when she toured Poland with the Hollies in 1966.
As a teenager in 1968 Lulu became the youngest celebrity ever to host her own BBC 1 TV Series – Happening for Lulu.
Belfast group Them, featuring a young Van Morrison, hit No. 2 in the Uk in 1965 with ‘Here comes the night’, but the first chart version of the song was by Lulu several month earlier. Songs on Lulu’s debut album, 1965’s ‘Something to Shout about’, featured guitar by an up-and-coming session musician called Jimmy Page.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s famous appearance on the ‘happening for Lulu’ series, transmitted live on January 4, 1969, induced panic at the BBC when they broke into an unscheduled version of Cream’s ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ and the show overran by 1 minute 46 seconds.
Lulu's Charities are:
Hope For Children
The Prasad Project
The Elton John Aids Foundation