Just some facts; Petula Clark (1932 – ) will turn 85 years old in November this year. She made her first public appearance on radio in the early 40’s, and her first record, “Put your shoes on, Lucy” in 1949. None of that is very remarkable, but what is remarkable is that Petula is still performing, and still recording. And, may I add – still doing it very well, with no signs of aging. Now, that is a feat!

During the last 5 years, Petula has put out 3 new albums: “Petula Clark” (2012), with songs mostly in French. She followed that one in 2013, releasing “Lost In You” – and last year, just before Christmas her final one so far, “From Now On” came out. I found it rather gutsy, that at age 84 she makes a new record – and gives it that title. What is most unbelievable, is that 67 years after her first record, she makes this one – AND she still sounds like a young woman! Also, none of these three albums are in any way a throw-back to days gone by, no no – Petula is spot on, doing very current material and sounding like the equal to many contemporary singers who are like 55 years younger than she is.

Petula’s 2013 album, “Lost In You”


Allmusic.com writes this about “Lost In You“: “Petula Clark hadn’t made a studio album featuring original compositions since the mid-70s when Lost in You was released in early 2013. Amazingly, it came 57 years after her 1957 debut album. Almost as amazingly, the 80-year-old Clark’s voice has held up remarkably well, and throughout most of the album’s 12 songs she sounds strong and soulful with only the occasional bit of studio trickery used to help her out. Working with producer John Williams, she’s crafted an album that relies on a few covers (an MOR country take on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” an earnest version of “Imagine”) and a batch of newly written songs that feature Clark looking back over a long life in music (“Reflections”), lamenting lost love (“Next to You”), and looking for new love (the country-rocking “Never Enough”). Apart from her voice being so strong and soulful (check out her pleading tones on “Lost in You” if you doubt that even a little), there are two big surprises on the album. First is the slowed-down and elegiac version of her biggest hit, “Downtown”; second is the opening track on the album, “Cut Copy Me.” An insistent late-night ballad that blends acoustic guitars and swooning strings with Clark’s Auto-Tuned voice and some icy synths, it’s the kind of sad and pretty song Saint Etienne would kill for. It also serves notice that Lost in You isn’t a nostalgic exercise for Clark; she’s fully up to date. It’s a quiet triumph of a song that stands as an equal to her best work from the past. There are a couple of missteps (the thin-sounding cover of the Gershwin standard “He Loves and She Loves,” the overwrought take on Elvis’ “Love Me Tender”) and one can’t help but wish at times that she had chosen to work with a producer who was a little more sonically adventurous than Williams; he’s stuck firmly in the middle of the road and while that fits some of the songs, it would have been interesting to hear what Air, for example, would have done with the sound. Wishes aside, Lost in You is an impressive achievement that shows Clark is still alive and kicking, and stands as a reminder that she is one of the great vocalists of her era.”

I might not agree with everything said above, I find the album a joy to listen to – this is great music, performed by one of the most enduring female vocalists of all time!


Petula’s 2016 album, “From Now On”

Allmusic.com writes this about “From Now On“: “Petula Clark began her career as an entertainer in 1939, when she was just seven years old, and hosted her own radio show at age 11. The mere fact she still has a singing career at the age of 84 is remarkable in itself, but on 2016’s From Now On, the U.K. pop legend sounds impressively up to date. It’s hard to imagine an octogenarian pop singer who is able to get over without nostalgia being part of the formula. But Clark comes very close to that here; her voice isn’t as strong as it once was, but it still possesses a remarkable clarity, and her command of her instrument is precise. Clark and producer John Owen Williams are smart enough to give her material that allows her voice to float with the current rather that push against the grain. But the largely electronic backings on “Sacrifice My Heart” and “Sincerely” push Clark toward contemporary pop (the former even finds her embracing Auto-Tune for effect), and Clark’s subtly passionate, confident delivery suggests the work of an artist a fraction of her age. Clark also wrote or co-wrote seven of the eleven tracks on From Now On (“Pour Etre Aime de Toi” finds her composing in tandem with Charles Aznavour), and she’s an able tunesmith who can walk the line between pop classicism and 21st century gloss with a capable stride. Though the production sometimes feels a bit cool, there’s a genuine warmth to Clark’s performances that’s effective and winning. And while a reasonable person might wonder if they ever need to hear another cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” or Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” Clark puts an unexpectedly fresh spin on her interpretations, and brings a playful sexiness to the latter that one would not expect from a woman her age. Anyone hoping Clark will re-create the sound of her Tony Hatch-produced singles of the ’60s is bound to be disappointed, but From Now On is music that’s mature but not dated or stiff, and reminds us she’s still one of the most thoughtful and capable pop vocalists at work today. An admirable achievement in a career that has spanned eight decades … so far.

A recent photo of the great Petula Clark

Her recording career stretching from 1949 until 2016 is in itself quite a feat! But the fact that she makes music that sounds so current and fresh is remarkable, and the fact that her voice still is just fabulous – that is really something. There are other singers out there, who had very long recording careers – but some of them should have given it up many years earlier. Anita O’ Day (making records between 1941 and 2006) had no voice left when she made her final album. Peggy Lee (whom I totally love) recorded between 1941 and 1995, but made a poor choice when she re-recorded some of her early 1940’s hits in 1990 – making the new versions proving once and for all that they should have been left in the can. Margaret Whiting made records from 1942 until 1990 (and sang live even longer), but she mostly stuck to evergreens and standards, and knew exactly how to make them sound still good even when she approached the age of 80.

Petula can just go on singing forever, if she keeps up sounding like this! Her career is a textbook example on “how to do it”, and tracing her musical development from 1949 and up until today, makes one thing very clear: Petula Clark is one of the best singers in popular music ever!