Kirby’s soprano voice became apparent early in life and she was thought to be good enough for opera. She became a professional singer after meeting the bandleader, Ambrose at the Ilford Palais. She remained with Ambrose’s band for three years and he remained her manager and mentor until his death in 1971.
She adopted the look of a ‘blonde bombshell’, and was compared to Marilyn Monroe. Her looks, lip-gloss and her powerful, pitch-perfect voice became her trademarks. She had a string of Top 20 hits between 1963 and 1965, the best known of which is probably her cover version of “Secret Love”.
Kathy Kirby became one of the biggest stars of the mid-sixties, appearing in the Royal Command Variety Performance and three television series for BBC TV. She represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965, and came second with the song “I Belong”. She also sang the theme tune of the BBC television series Adam Adamant Lives!.
Kathy Kirby’s star faded in the late sixties. She recorded twelve singles and an album between 1967 and 1973, but did they did not achieve her previous success. She continued to make television appearances, and her 1974 appearance on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club TV variety show is available to watch on YouTube.
During the 1970s Kathy Kirby endured personal bankruptcy and some health problems, but she made occasional television appearances and performed a few live gigs on the “nostalgia circuit”. In the early 80s, although only still in her early 40’s, she retired from show business altogether. Kathy Kirby later lived away from the public eye in the Kensington area of London, and shunned publicity.
Her music is now attracting some renewed interest after the publication of a biography in 2005 entitled “Secrets, Loves and Lip Gloss” by James Harman, and the launch of an official website. There have been unconfirmed reports of plans to dramatise her life story based on the biography, and for some live performances.
Kirby died on 19 May 2011 after a short illness. She was 72.
Edited by moreford on 16 Dec 2011, 18:27
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