Friday Night Music, November 20: Shirley Bassey, “Diamonds Are Forever,” 1971
She wasn’t just known for singing the theme song to Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey is just about the only singer to have been asked to sing a theme song for three James Bond movies. I liked this particularly for the last stanza, when she sings, Diamonds are forever, forever, forever. Chills. I do mean chills. I used to turn my radio up when she would come on the wavelength, the days when pop music was still played on AM radio. This girl still has a powerful voice at the age of 72.
Born in Cardiff, Wales from an interracial marriage between an Efik Nigerian seaman and a Yorkshire-born white woman, Bassey identifies as Welsh, the same nationality as Tom Jones. So she was lumped together with the other Brits when they stormed onto the shores of the United States in 1963–The British Invasion, so to speak. She’s been active for over 50 years as a singer. Bassey has been married twice, but the fathers of her two daughters remain unknown. She and her second husband also adopted a grand-nephew. Several years back, though, the body of her youngest daughter Samantha was found in the Avon River, an apparent suicide. Bassey steadfastly refuses to believe that Samantha’s death was self-inflicted.
Shirley Bassey was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in December 1999. Last week, she released a new album called The Performance. The guest performers include Gary Barlow, K.T. Tunstall, Manic Street Preachers, Pet Shop Boys, John Barry, Kaiser Chiefs, and Don Black.