So I know my original series was intended as a five person tribute, but I spotted this photo over on DListed (which is like, one of my favorite blogs out there) and had to share.
Lo, the one and only Dame Shirley Bassey at the Casino Royale premiere in London.
Talk about aging like fine wine. Bassey is totally having a resurgence. First The Propellerheads brought her back into the spotlight (yes, I know that was in ’97, but I love that song), then Kanye West put her voice (and an important anti-bling message) on the charts.
In researching more about her, I found a fascinating documentary about Shirley Bassey’s life on my beloved YouTube, in which entertainment producer Wyn Calvin says “Her voice is phenomenal. It is a leather larynx that has lasted.” So true.
Despite her amazing talent, that video clip also saddened me. Shirley Bassey and Nina Simone must have loathed each other, and Shirley might even take umbrage at me calling her an AfroBella.
At the very end of that clip, noted British broadcaster Trevor Phillips discusses her terrible decision to perform at Sun City in South Africa during the height of apartheid, and her former husband Sergio Novak reveals that “she never felt black in her thinking or her talking… she never wanted to be involved in all this… Luther King…she hated that. I am a singer, I am an artist, I don’t care about politics, about race. I don’t think color meant anything to her.”
This earlier segment reveals even more about her apparent identity crisis. I mean, she’s completely cut her own family off… you know what, the whole documentary is fascinating. Click here for the Shirley Bassey documentary parts 1 to 6. She is drama and camp through and through.
Although I definitely identify as a proud, black, Trinidadian woman, if Shirley Bassey, international singing icon, biracial child of a Nigerian father and an English mother, chooses to not contemplate or embrace any racial identity that’s I guess that’s her perogative.
Lord knows she gives less than a damn what I think about her. She’s a living legend. But it does make me sad for her. If you watched that documentary, you’ll see that she also seems to have completely excised her family from her life, and broke men’s hearts like nobody’s business.
That reminds me of a comment that Diamond, a regular reader left about my previous Naomi Campbell post. Allow me to digress a bit. Celebrities are just people who are either blessed with talent or looks. And they often have more issues than you or I do. This goes beyond “mo money, mo problems,” I’m talking about the intoxicating effects of fame. People start believing their own hype, and sometimes that leads to their downfall. If everyone agrees with what you think and jumps to perform your command, I suppose after a while you start believing that your shit smells like fresh baked cookies and that you’re somehow different, more special, and better than everyone else.
It also makes me a bit angry, because I can’t help but think of the good she could have done to the civil rights movement had she chosen to participate. But perhaps race in her part of the world isn’t as divisive and complex an issue as it is here. I don’t know, and I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. UK readers, I would especially love to hear your opinion on this and spark a real discussion on ethnic identity. How important is it to claim a race, or identify with a particular ethnicity? If you’re biracial, what gives one race more weight than the other? What about the “One Drop” theory? Discuss!
I’m sorry that my sincere homage to the beautifully aging Shirley Bassey has taken this debate-heavy turn, but I’m in a contemplative mood, it’s pouring rain and I’m listening to Billie Holiday. Sorry.
In any case, she’s an undeniable talent. She’s a belter to the extreme. Her voice is ginormous and she’s incredibly theatrical. Check her out with the sexy silver dress here, singing “Diamonds Are Forever.”
In terms of delivering a spine-tingling performance she kicks Barbra Streisand’s butt, if you ask me.
Shirley Bassey is a true diva. Her temper is legendary, her intensity is electric, and her performances continue to thrill. According to Wikipedia she’s about to release a new album, and she even pops up in a new Marks & Spencer ad just in time for the holidays, singing of all things, Pink’s “Get This Party Started.”
Perfectly coiffed and made-up, she’s got lots of life in her still. Even though I can’t agree with or understand her ethnic affiliation (or lack thereof), I can’t knock her hustle. She looks absolutely amazing at 69.