Petula Sally Olwen Clark, CBE (born 15 November 1932) is an English singer, actress and composer whose career has spanned over seven decades.
With more than 70 million records sold worldwide, she is the most successful British female solo recording artist and is cited as such in the Guinness Book of World Records. She also holds the distinction of having the longest span on the international pop charts of any artist — 51 years — from 1954, when "The Little Shoemaker" made the UK Top Twenty, to 2005, when her CD L'essentiel - 20 Succès Inoubliables charted in Belgium.
The most commercially successful female singer in British chart history, Petula Clark was born November 15, 1932 in Epsom, England. Trained to sing by her soprano mother, Clark embarked on a stage career at the age of seven; soon she was a fixture on British radio programs, and began hosting her own regular show Pet's Parlour -- a series spotlighting patriotic songs designed to boost the morale of wartime audiences -- at the tender age of 11.
After entertaining British troops alongside fellow child stars Julie Andrews and Anthony Newley, Clark made her film debut with A Medal for the General in 1944. By the dawn of the 1950s she was a superstar throughout the U.K., with a resume of close to two dozen films; 1954's "The Little Shoemaker" was her first Top 20 single, while 1960's "Sailor" was her first chart-topper. Still, Clark struggled with her inability to shed her adolescent image.
After selling over a million copies of 1961's "Romeo," she married and relocated to France, establishing a strong fan base there on the strength of hits including "Ya-Ya Twist," "Chariot" and "Monsieur," which spotlighted a new, more sophisticated pop sound anchored by her crystalline vocals.
Riding the wave of the British Invasion, Clark was finally able to penetrate the U.S. market in 1964 with the Grammy-winning "Downtown," the first single by a British woman ever to reach number one on the American pop charts. It was also the first in a series of American Top Ten hits (most written and arranged by Tony Hatch) which also included 1965's "I Know a Place" and 1966's "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" and the number one smash "My Love." At the same time, she remained a huge star throughout Europe, topping the British charts in 1967 with "This Is My Song," taken from the film A Countess From Hong Kong.
In addition to hosting her own BBC series, she also starred in the 1968 NBC television special Petula, which triggered controversy when sponsors requested that a segment with guest Harry Belafonte be cut in deference to Southern affiliates; ultimately, the show aired in its intended form.
As the 1960s drew to a close, Clark's commercial stature slipped, although singles like "Don't Sleep on the Subway," "The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener" and "Kiss Me Goodbye" still charted on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1968 she revived her film career by starring in Finian's Rainbow, followed a year later by Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
In later years Clark focused primarily on international touring, headlining the 1981 London revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music; after starring in the 1990 musical Someone Like You, which she also co-wrote, she made her Broadway debut in Blood Brothers in 1993. Additionally, in 1988, an acid-house remix of "Downtown" reached the U.K. Top Ten, another honor for the female singer awarded the most gold records in British pop history.
Soon after, she began working with producer John Williams on an album. Made up of newly written songs and covers, as well as a new take on "Downtown," Lost in You was issued in early 2013. (info mainly Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide)