Lulu was born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, on November 3rd, 1948, the eldest of a family of four, in Lennox Castle, Lennoxtown, Glasgow – the daughter of a local butcher. She started singing almost immediately.
She made her first public appearance singing at the tender age of 4 at a Coronation Party – “From then on, I used to go in for talent competitions on my own,” she adds. At Whitehill School in Glasgow, she was always in trouble for singing during lessons.
At the age of 14, Lulu joined a local group – The Gleneagles – and started playing club engagements in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Each Sunday evening, the group with Lulu in tow as lead singer, played at The Lindella Club – a Glasgow discotheque, for a pound a night each.
On one particular cold Glaswegian evening at The Lindella, Lulu was discovered singing by Marion Massey, who later became her manager and mentor … and who guided her to stardom.
Says Lulu: “When I was fourteen, I was very lucky. I was discovered – to use a terrible term – by a person who was absolutely sincere. Since I was five, people had been coming up to me saying: ‘Stick with me, baby, and I’ll make you a star’. In fact, nobody ever did anything for me. Then Marion came along”.
And Marion takes up the story:
“She (Lulu) looked so peculiar that first time I saw her. Her hair was in curlers underneath a fur beret. She had a terrible cold, was very pale and wore three jumpers. But I was very intrigued by her. It wasn’t her singing; there was something tremendously magnetic about this girl. I knew she had the makings of a great star.” She was right … and set about proving it.
Marion Massey signed Lulu and her group to a management contract and took them to London to record. But first she decided the time was right to change her protégée’s name, and came up with the perfect answer: Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie became Lulu. The group’s name changed, too, from The Gleneagles to The Luvvers.
In actual fact, Columbia (EMI) turned down Lulu and The Luvvers, the first record company they approached for a deal, but no matter. Within weeks, they were signed up by Decca and made their first single, ‘Shout’, a raw version of the old Isley Brothers US hit of 1959, which Lulu had enthused over when she heard Alex Harvey singing it several months before. Lulu’s own handling of the song moved one eminent rock journalist to write:
“It is still probably the best rock ‘n’ roll performance by a woman in the history of British pop.”
When it was released in the spring of 1964, it became a smash hit and launched Lulu on the road to stardom. ‘Shout’ went on to take the British Singles Chart by storm and finally reached No.7.
What followed next, through 1964 and 1965, was an outstanding assault on the world’s hit parades by the newly acclaimed singing star, with a succession of classic singles: ‘Here Comes The Night’, ‘Leave A little Love’ and ‘Try To Understand’ (all British Single Chart Hits). She consolidated her success with a string of top television and radio appearances, and concert engagements all over the country. It paid dividends, too. By the end of 1965, she was voted ‘Britain’s Most Promising Newcomer In Showbusiness’ by the highly influential rock newspaper Melody Maker. It was the first of many honours.
1966 proved a memorable year in Lulu’s career, although it was the year that finally saw her parting company from her backing band The Luvvers. Besides a hectic round of TV and radio appearances in Britain and Europe, she also undertook major concert tours; with The Hollies to Poland – to become the first British girl singing star – ever to perform behind the Iron Curtain – followed by a lengthy British tour with Roy Orbison and The Walker Brothers. She also switched record labels, too, from Decca to Columbia – ironically the company that turned her down two years before – and joined forces with producer Mickie Most, whose stable at that time included The Animals, Donovan, and Herman’s Hermits. Lulu also finished the year on another high note, when she starred in the pantomime ‘Babes In The Wood’ at the Wimbledon Theatre and won rave reviews from the press.
However, the undoubted highlight of that year came in the spring, when she signed to star in her first movie – playing the part of cheeky ‘Barbara Pegg’ – in ‘To Sir With Love’, alongside Sidney Poitier.She was great, too, and once again was acclaimed by the Press for her performance when the movie was released in April 1967, and later on went to break box-office records all over America. She completely justified the faith put into her by the film’s writer, producer and director James Clavell, who said at the time: “This girl has a naturalness, a straightforward quality coupled with a really exciting personality, A very important movie quality indeed”.
He said it all.
If 1966 proved a major turning point in Lulu’s career, then the following year certainly consolidated all her success, and established a marvellous pattern. She enjoyed three major hit singles – ‘The Boat That I Row’, ‘Let’s Pretend’ and ‘Love Loves To Love Love’ – and also signed for her first BBC Television series called ‘Three Of A Kind’ (with Mike Yarwood and Ray Fell). In the summer, she embarked on a massive tour of America, appearing on such top-rating programmes as ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, ‘David Frost Show’, ‘Johnny Carson Show’, and many many more.
Back in Britain, she appeared in concert in London with the Monkees, then at the height of their outstanding careers, – and stopped the show. Then in November, she was chosen to appear in The Royal Variety Show at the celebrated London Palladium, one of the highest personal accolades in British showbusiness.
That’s not all. ‘To Sir With Love’ shot to the very top of the American Singles Chart to give Lulu a unique distinction in International showbusiness.
She was the only non- American female singer- ever to have topped the US Singles Chart for five weeks, and at that time only one of five British female singers to have topped the chart.
Lulu joined this elite band in 1967 when ‘To Sir With Love’ – the title song from her debut movie appearance – was released as a single … and within weeks, it was sitting at the very pinnacle of the US Chart. The record stayed there for five weeks and by November 1967 had sold a million copies. In all, the record-making single went on to sell nearly 4,000,000 copies worldwide. It was a remarkable feat for the lovely green-eyed singing star: it was the first time in recording history that a US hit by a British artist was never given a domestic release, even though it was a No1, but then, Lulu has been breaking records and making International showbusiness history ever since.
Lulu’s success Stateside was completed in 1968, when she was voted ‘The Most Promising Female Vocalist Of The Year’, after playing a series of barnstorming engagements, with appearances at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood, where ‘Variety’ headlined: ‘Lulu’s A Winner’ and the Los Angeles Examiner called her ‘a singing sensation’, and Miami’s Diplomat Hotel.
Domestically, she completed two more television series for BBC TV – ‘Lulu’s Back In Town’ and Happening To Lulu’; made her debut at Europe’s premier nightspot, The Talk Of The Town, in London; and appeared in concert and cabaret engagements all over the country. She also picked up a bevy of prestigious newspaper awards: ‘Britain’s Top Girl Singer’, ‘Best Dressed Girl’, ‘Miss Valentine’ (an award she was to win again in 1969 and 1970), and ‘Top TV Artiste’, presented by the top pop music paper Disc, and she was voted ‘The World’s Top Female Singer Of The Year’ by the renowned New Musical Express. There were hit records, too, with ‘Me The Peaceful Heart’, ‘Boy’ and ‘I’m A Tiger’ all high in the singles chart… and Lulu was still only twenty.
The turn of 1969 saw Lulu hitting the headlines once more when, on February 18th, she married Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees in a blaze of publicity and riotous crowd scenes outside the Buckinghamshire church where the ceremony took place. Unfortunately, the marriage was to last four years, before ending in divorce.
Career-wise, however, she was at the height of her success and living up to her position as ‘Britain’s Top Girl Singer’. For in March of that year, she clocked up another distinguished first, when she was chosen to represent Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest – and singing ‘Boom Bang-A-Bang’, walked off with joint first prize. It was a tremendous achievement – she was only the second British singer to capture the coveted prize. Lulu summed up her feelings in one word; “Fantastic”.
It was the right word, too, because within a matter of days ‘Boom Bang-A-Bang’ went to the top of the singles charts all over Europe, selling well through-out the world … and gave Lulu one of her biggest chart success back here in Britain, when it finally reached No.2. If that wasn’t enough for one year, the BBC also signed her for yet another television series.
Internationally, too, 1969 proved highly productive with top television appearances in America and a further Stateside cabaret appearance at the noted Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, where Entertainment World summed up her performance by simply saying ‘Dynamic Lulu’. The US connection was completed some months later, when she recorded for the fist time in America, resulting in the release of a brand new album for Atco, produced by Gerry Wexler, called ‘New Routes’, and from which her last British single of the 60’s – ‘Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)’ – was taken.
The United States was still very much to the fore for our wee Scottish lassie as the 60’s ebbed and flowed in to the 70’s … and she made regular trips across the Atlantic for TV and concerts appearances. In 1970, she embarked on a tremendous trans-American tour with Englebert Humperdink and also took time out from her heavy schedule to co-host television’s ‘Andy Williams Show’ with singer Ray Stevens. At home in Britain, she notched up yet another BBC TV series and starred in the television ‘special’ “Cucumber Castle”, which was later screened all over the world. Again she completed the year by picking up yet another hatful of top showbusiness accolades – ‘Top Female Singer’ and ‘Best Dressed Female Star’.
… The story continued very much on the same level throughout the 1970’s with Lulu sitting very much at the top of her chosen tree of success, a super-talent and every inch the superstar – winning bouquets of applause from critics and audiences alike all over the world. It was never ending.
Highlights of that outstanding and highly successful decade included tours of Britain, American, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. Many more top-rating BBC TV series including ‘It’s Lulu’ (in which she co-starred with Dudley Moore), ‘Lulu’s Party’ and ‘The Les Dawson Show’, she shared top billing with the British comedian, a further show-stopping season at London’s ‘Talk Of The Town’ and a triumphant return to Las Vegas to star at ‘The Rivera Hotel’. She was also chosen as a subject on television’s ‘This Is Your Life’… at age 23.
There were more accolades, too – in 1972 she starred in the perennial ‘Peter Pan’ in the Christmas presentation of J.M. Barrie’s classic play, in Manchester, in which she broke all box office records which had stood for 60 years, and repeated the role – to high acclaim – at the London Palladium in 1975, the same year she was voted ‘Best Groomed Female TV Personality’, by the National Hairdresser’s Federation.
Then in 1974 – after a five-year absence from the UK Charts – she hit the jackpot once again with ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, written and produced by David Bowie. It proved not only to be a hit, but one of Lulu’s biggest record successes, reaching No 3 in the chart. It was a welcome and triumphant return. A year later, Lulu was back with another hit with ‘Take Your Mama For A Ride’.
Since then Lulu has more than consolidated her exciting career and fulfilled all her early promise, with a string of International concert, cabaret and television appearances. However, the schedule was interrupted in 1976 when she married top London Hairdresser, John Frieda. Their son, Jordan, was born in June 1977.
During 1980, besides playing numerous guest television engagements, Lulu also made several appearances on ATV’s rock ‘n’ roll show, ‘Oh Boy’, which proved so successful that a brand new series, ‘Let’s Rock’, was virtually constructed around her immense talents. The 24-show series was screened in the autumn of that year all over America and throughout the rest of the world. To coincide with the series, Lulu recorded a new album – ‘The Very Best Of Lulu’ – featuring all of her hit singles of the 60’s and 70’s and a few new tracks.
Now in her third decade as a major singing star and entertainer, the delightful Lulu has certainly become one of an elite band of international stars with a track record second to none.
In the USA, she enjoyed more chart success with hit singles such as ‘I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do), ‘If I Were You’ and the Grammy nominated track ‘Who’s Foolin’ Who’, and two exciting albums, ‘Lulu’ and ‘Take Me To Your Heart Again’, and she has appeared on all major American TV shows.
In Britain, she starred in two BBC TV Specials, ‘Lulu’ and ‘The Vocal Touch’, hosted her own series, ‘Some You Win’, and, made regular appearances on a wide range of shows and series, including ‘Big Top Variety’, ‘The Bob Hope Classic’, ‘Bruce Forsyth Show’, and many many more. At the beginning 0f 1987, she appeared as ‘Pauline’, Adrian Mole’s mother, in the top-rating series, ‘The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole’, which was screened on the full ITV network; in the summer of 1988, during her starring season at the Bournemouth International Centre, she was featured as special guest star for the entire series of the TVS Networked show, ‘Summertime Special’.
Lulu also presented her own radio series for London’s Capital Radio called ‘Sunday Best’, and in 1988, she hosted BBC Radio 2’s ‘Ken Bruce Show’ for a short season. During the 80’s she also enjoyed great success on the West End stage and has appeared in several major shows: in the summer of 1983, she starred to great acclaim in the hit Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, ‘Song And Dance’, at the Palace Theatre, and two years later scored another huge personal success in the role of ‘Adelaide’ in the award-winning National Theatre production of ‘Guys And Dolls’ at the Prince Of Wales Theatre. She returned to the London stage in May 1987 to star in the hit Broadway musical, ‘The Mystery Of Edwin Drood’ at the Savoy, followed in the autumn, by a starring appearance in another American Show, ‘Peter Pan – The Musical’, which was staged at the Cambridge Theatre for a short season.
Another outstanding career highlight came in November 1986 when her first book, ‘Lulu – Her Autobiography’, was published by Granada Books. The following summer, a brand new version of her 1964 hit single, ‘Shout’, was released on Jive Records. It proved another tremendous success, emulating the impact of the original record over twenty years before, and stormed into the British charts to peak at No.8. Lulu’s musical achievements were duly recognised and honoured in October 1987 by the British Academy Of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, with the award of their Gold Badge Of Merit for her services to the British Music Industry.
Following the earlier success of ‘Peter Pan -The Musical’ in the West End during the winter of 1987, Lulu recreated the title role once again a year later with a Christmas season at the Wimbledon Theatre as part of a short British Theatre tour which also took in the early months of 1989. In April, the Variety Club Of Great Britain honoured her with a tribute luncheon in London, to celebrate her twenty-five years in showbusiness. The luncheon, took place at The Café Royal, was later televised by the BBC. During the summer, she starred in a series of Sunday concert engagements at the Bournemouth International Centre, followed by an extensive British concert tour in her own exciting show – ‘Lulu -Red Hot Tour’. On television, she won critical acclaim for her portrayal of the character ‘Gossamer Trouble’ in ‘Perfect Scoundrels’, for TVS, screened on the full ITV network. Lulu also managed to complete a series of international engagements in America, Europe and Australia through this busy 1980’s period.
Well if you thought that by this time Lulu had done it all you’d be wrong. Lulu was to come into her own in the 1990’s.
Lulu took time out from television and started to concentrate on recording once again, it all came to fruition in 1993, when Lulu released her first single in years and immediately took the charts by storm yet again. ‘Independence’ was the single and reached No 11 in the singles chart, which was followed by the album of the same name, and received critical acclaim from the music press. The ‘Independence’ album was a mixture of disco pop with a flavour of classic soul sounds and R&B. The mix worked well and reaped rewards and gained the No.1 Dance Chart spot and entered the American Dance Chart. It was all happening.
The follow up single ‘I’m Back For More’, which Lulu duetted with soul legend Bobby Womack, and again hit the charts, more hits followed and then came the biggie. Lulu had started songwriting and one of the first songs that she had written was picked to be recorded by none other than Tina Turner. ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ was an enormous success both for Tina and Lulu, it was a smash hit all over the world and was nominated for a Grammy. Lulu herself won acclaim for the song and was nominated in the Ivor Novello Awards as songwriter, and won a BMI award.
1993 ended on a really high note when Lulu was teamed up with the then teen sensation, Take That and recorded ‘Relight My Fire’, this was a pairing that seemed unlikely on paper but on record it worked. The result was Lulu’s first UK No.1 Single. Times had never been busier for Lulu and this was only the beginning.
During this time Lulu took time to appear on ‘French & Saunders’ and the award winning ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, plus a tour with Take That. Hit singles followed, too, this time Lulu was recording her own songs, ‘Goodbye Baby And Amen’ and ‘Every Woman Knows’ kept Lulu in the UK Charts in 1994.
Lulu as songwriter was also seeing her work recorded by other artists Wynonna, of The Judds, recorded a song and got Lulu a BMI Country Award. Other artists who recorded songs have been Dana Dawson and Kavana.
Lulu then worked on her songwriting to produce an album of her own songs, still to be released, but in 1999 a taster was given with the hit single ‘Hurt Me So Bad’, a great song sung with great meaning and feeling, the lady was singing her own words about her own life and you knew it.
During this time Lulu also recorded with Elton John, on his ‘Aida’ album. The song on this album was ‘The Messenger’ which truly shows off Lulu’s vocal to its full potential and in her forth decade can still cut it with the rest of the chart contenders.
Lulu once again hit the charts with yet another of her own compositions “Where The Poor Boys Dance” saw her hit the Top 30, reaching No 24 in the UK chart, and giving her the distinction of being on Top Of The Pops in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and in the year 2000. Lulu also had a first in the summer of 2000, when she took to the stage at her fist ever festival, and it was back home in Scotland, when she played to new breed of fans at the annual Music Festival, ‘T In The Park’, and was rated in the press as ‘One of the best performances of the festival’ and one paper even said ‘Lulu showed the young ones how it should be done’. Lulu was a hit, and she herself enjoyed the day.
On a personal level Lulu ‘s career was to take on a new aspect as she was then awarded the O.B.E., in June 2000, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her contribution to the Entertainment Industry, and a further honour was to come in December 2000, when Lulu was given a Doctorate Of Music by The University Of Westminster.
Lulu is in her fourth decade as a major international star and she has a new album of duets due to be released in May 2002.