Petula Clark debuts at outdoor fest at 84

Besides singing her global smash Downtown, Petula Clark (above, in a 2012 photograph) also covered songs from her latest album at the Fairport's Cropredy Convention.
Besides singing her global smash Downtown, Petula Clark (above, in a 2012 photograph) also covered songs from her latest album at the Fairport's Cropredy Convention.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • For the record, Grammy-winner Petula Clark just notched another first in her career - her first performance in an outdoor festival.

Over the weekend, the 84- year-old singer made her debut before thousands in a field in rural England.

"I'm always trying new things," she said of her interest in keeping her career that spans eight decades humming and bustling.

Clark's set at the Fairport's Cropredy Convention included her global smash Downtown and some of her other 1960s hits, including Colour My World, I Know A Place and Don't Sleep In The Subway.

There were also new songs from her latest album, From Now On.

"This is not an old 1960s thing by any means, I don't do... looking back," she said.

Indeed, she is working on a new album of French-Canadian songs ahead of a tour next May.

As might be expected, Clark closed her Cropredy show with her biggest hit Downtown, leading the crowd as they sang along with the chorus.

Downtown topped the American Billboard Hot 100 in 1964 and reached No. 2 on the British chart.

It paved the way for Clark to win her first Grammy and induction into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2003.

Clark, whose career stretches back to World War II, when she sang on BBC radio to entertain British troops when she was nine, has never shied away from breaking new ground.

In the 1950s, she moved to Paris and recorded numerous songs in French, working over the years with the likes of singer-songwriters Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Charles Aznavour.

Her website lists 10 "gold record" singles that have sold a million copies each, including one each in French and German.

She has appeared in numerous films, including singing and dancing with Fred Astaire in 1968's Finian's Rainbow that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

The same year, in an American television special, she sang a duet with African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

As they sang anti-war song On The Path Of Glory that was co- written by Clark, she touched his arm - to the dismay of the show's sponsors.

A white woman touching a black man on television was taboo in 1960s America.

To head off the sponsors, Clark's team destroyed all other takes.

"We were not going to be told what to do and what not to do," she said. "Maybe I was naive. It seemed to me like a storm in a teacup but, of course, it was that particular time in that particular country."

A United States tour in November and December takes Clark from California to New York. Then, she plays eight dates in Canada, where she will perform in French.

So there are no plans to slow down? "Not at the moment. My voice is in great shape. I don't really do anything to help it, I just go out and do it," she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Petula Clark debuts at outdoor fest at 84'. Print Edition | Subscribe