Lynsey de Paul has passed on: R.I.P… and thanks for the memories

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Lynsey de Paul (1948-2014), pictured in the early 1970s

Lynsey de Paul (1948-2014), pictured in the early 1970s

She was the first British singer-songwriter to achieve major success, and in her field she was certainly a force to be reckoned with. She may not be a familiar name to everybody, but ask any person who grew up during the 1970’s – and you will no doubt have them nodding and smiling. Well, maybe not today – the news of her death on October 1 has reached just about every corner of the world by now….. If the name and face doesn’t conjure up any memories, some of her songs no doubt will; “Sugar Me”, “Getting A Drag”, “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me”, “Ivory Tower” and her UK entry in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest “Rock Bottom” are essential Lynsey songs. In addition to all the great stuff she herself recorded, she also composed and wrote songs for a lot of other singers. Her prolific output both on record and as songwriter adds up to a wonderful musical legacy. She made the UK singles Charts on many different occasions, and a lot of her great albums also charted. Two years ago, most of her music was collected on two great double-disc sets; “Sugar And Beyond, 1972-1974” and “Into My Music, 1975-1979”. With a total of more than 60 songs, it paints the portrait of an artist whose songs stand apart from the rest, her lyrics show her as a very good lyricist and the songs span everything from piano ballads to pop, rock and even some early 70s disco tinged material.

"Sugar And Beyond, 1972-74". The first anthology of Lynsey de Paul

“Sugar And Beyond, 1972-74”. The first anthology of Lynsey de Paul

As many of her original albums have gone out of print, and are very hard to find, these two volumes are, at present, the only option you have, if you want some de Paul in your house. For fans, they are totally essential – for the casual, curious listener it gives a stunning look into what she was all about.

The second anthology: "Into My Music 1975-79"

The second anthology: “Into My Music 1975-79”

Since the early 80s, Lynsey de Paul cut down on recording, but she was still  a visible figure on a lot of TV shows, and of course in the tabloids. She never married, but she had a lengthy affair with actor James Coburn. At various times she was also linked with Ringo Starr, Dudley Moore and Bernie Taupin. She always came across as one of the nice girls, and there was never any scandals involving her, she basically seemed to be the sunny blonde the record covers depicted. Well known for her intelligent comments and zany sense of humour, she was a favourite guest on many talk shows, and she was always a pleasure to watch. Known for her healthy lifestyle as well – she didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, was a vegetarian and always kept herself in good shape. Even in her later years, Lynsey still looked very much like she did at the start of her career more than 40 years ago.

A photo of Lynsey taken around 2012

A photo of Lynsey taken around 2012

It was therefore all the more of a shock, when she suffered a brain haemorrhage on Wednesday this week, and later that day, October 1, died in a London hospital. My heart goes out to her niece Olivia (her closest relative), and I know that her many, many fans around the world also feel that the world is a poorer place right now… Still, her musical legacy will live on, and it is time for her former record companies to start producing reissues of all her original albums. Her talent was way too good to be left in the vaults, and a new generation of music fans has grown up since she started out in the early 1970s. This girl is a one-of-a-kind talent, and her songs will once more light up the gloomy darkness that suddenly struck us this week. Rest in peace, Lynsey – and thanks for the many musical memories. Listening to you was always a pleasure, and I will indulge myself today – in loving memory of you…

GITTE HAENNING – 60 years in music

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Somebody notified me that although I am Scandinavian, most of my writings here have been about internationally well-known singers and performers. And “why don’t I write about any Scandinavian singers??”. Well, I hereby do exactly that – and I thought it a good opportunity to spotlight the fabulous career of the great Danish singer Gitte Haenning (spelled Hænning in Scandinavia, but I will stick to using the international label here…).

Gitte at sweet 16, and already eight years into her career...

Gitte at sweet 16, and already eight years into her career…

It is, incredible to believe – but true, it was 60 years ago this year since the then 8 year old Gitte first stepped into a recording studio and made her first record. A duet with her father, Otto – it was a cute little novelty called “Giftes med farmand” (“I wanna marry daddy” approximately). That was the start of an incredible career that has led to her being one of the absolute greatest of Danish stars, and also Denmark’s biggest export in the music field, especially in Germany where Gitte is a true superstar. She is first and foremost a singer, and does pop and jazz equally well. Added to that, she has acted in movies, been on numerous television shows, she has performed in the Eurovision Song Contest outtakes for no less than three different countries (Denmark, Germany and Luxemburg) and also participated in the 2012 season of the German edition of “Dancing with the stars”, pulling out of the competition due to her sister’s death.

A blond beauty and some mink... An eternally successful combination, and here used for Gitte in the late 60's

A blond beauty and some mink… An eternally successful combination, and here used for Gitte in the late 60’s

Gitte started out recording in Danish, and later on she also cut records singing in German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish and Dutch. Her first records were aimed squarely at young record buyers, and she did quite a lot of girl-group sounding singles. But still, even as early as 1968 she made her first great jazz album with the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – showing off her talent for jazz and probably surprising a lot of listeners as she was just 21 when the record was made. Already a seasoned performer with a lot of experience, she proved herself very favourably on this album.

"My Kind Of World"; 1968 saw Gitte move from pop to jazz

“My Kind Of World”; 1968 saw Gitte move from pop to jazz

For a complete list of all of Gitte’s recordings – check out the great website http://www.gittehaenning.info – which contains most of what you would need to know about the lady…..  By the time she had reached the age of 20, she had achieved 5 number one records in three different countries (1 in Denmark, 2 in Sweden and 2 in Germany). She had also teamed up with German schlagerstar Rex Gildo, and as “Gitte & Rex” the duo also racked up several more hits, some of them taken from the films Gitte acted in.

"Gitte & Rex", a photo from the mid-60's

“Gitte & Rex”, a photo from the mid-60’s

Gitte in the Eurovision Song Contest: In 1962 Gitte was chosen as Denmark’s entry in the ESC, with the song “Jeg snakker med mig selv” (“Talking to myself”). The rules stated that none of the competing songs were to be publicly performed before the competition. Then it turned out that the song’s composer had actually whistled the tune in a restaurant (considered public), and so the song was disqualified and Gitte had to withdraw from the stakes that year! In 1973 she was chosen as Germany’s representative, and performed “Junger Tag” on their behalf – ending in 8th Place in the compettion. The song turned into a big hit in Germany, and Gitte performs it in her concerts to this very day. She was also the third Scandinavian singer to represent Germany in the ESC, after Norway’s Wencke Myhre sang “Ein Hoch der Liebe” in 1968 and Sweden’s Siw Malmkvist did “Primaballerina” in 1969 (and tied for the 9th place with….. Sweden’s Tommy Körberg!) In 1978 she competed in the stakes for Luxembourg with the song “Rien Qu’une Femme” but was beaten by Spanish disco duo Baccara and their song “Parlez-vous francais”.

Gitte on stage in the late 1970's

Gitte on stage in the late 1970’s

The Gitte Haenning voice: Making your first record at age 8, you naturally sound like a child. This child however, was rhythmicly secure, had spot on vocals and was obviously very musical and talented even that early. She quickly developed into a young girl singer with a flexible and warm voice, that sounded equally at home singing up-tempo novelties or ballads. As an adult, Gitte has found her own, unique style: her voice has the honeyed tones that convey a lot of feeling without making great efforts to put the emotions across – she never makes it sound like she’s working up a sweat to get the message through. Her voice is very strong, but as she has learned the great art of understatement, she only occasionally will raise her voice in a song – at just the right moment – as to underline the lyrics. She can indeed “belt-it-out”, but rarely does…. She also has great breath control, and can hold very long notes if needed, and thank God; she never fell for that awful trick of audibly breathing on record (which some young singers today do, thinking it sounds “sexy” – it is not!!) The Gitte Haennning discography is vast and varied, and singling out a favorite album might be difficult, as she has recorded in several different languages and different styles. Her entire output 1958-65 was boxed up some years ago and “Gitte – Den Komplette Popboks” is obviously the best place to start if you want to listen to this singer during her formative years. You get 93 songs, mostly sung in Danish or German but also containing recordings done in English, Finnish and Dutch.

"Den Komplette Popboks 1958-65", a great collection of early Gitte Haenning

“Den Komplette Popboks 1958-65”, a great collection of early Gitte Haenning

In 1980, Gitte recorded a complete version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Tell Me On A Sunday” in German, and “Bleib Noch Bis Zum Sonntag” is certainly a highlight in Gitte’s recorded output! It was also included in its entirety in the Box Set “Die Grossen Erfolge der 80er“, along with two of her other fabulous albums of the 80’s; “Ungeschminkt” (1982) and “Behrürungen” (1983). Together, these three albums show her off as one of the best adult pop singers of the 1980’s – and you’ll find a lot of her biggest German hits on them too! And one of the bonus tracks is her stunning version of “Mac Arthur Park”.

3 of her best albums of the 80's was also boxed...

3 of her best albums of the 80’s was also boxed…

In the early 2000’s, Gitte teamed up with her Scandinavian colleauges Wenche Myhre and Siw Malmkvist for a series of shows, and went on tour. It was a great success, and the shows were sold out wherever they went. Combining the talents of three different “divas” who all have their own unique style, hits and voices might prove a challenge to any arranger – but this time the combination clicked very well. Their performance was put out on an album, titled “Gitte, Wencke, Siw – Die Show” came out 2005.

Left to right: Siw, Gitte, Wencke - pictured in 2005

Left to right: Siw, Gitte, Wencke – pictured in 2005

As mentioned earlier, check out Gitte’s web site for a complete list of all her records, as they are too many to go into detail about. And by all means – get some of her records, they are all worth searching out! The little girl who started out 60 years ago, has used these 60 years to develop her unique talent and claiming her position as one of Europe’s most versatile and finest singers. Gitte Haenning is one very good reason to be proud of being a Scandinavian – kinda makes me wanna shout out  “Look what we can do up here!”.

A fairly recent photo of the great Gitte Haenning

A fairly recent photo of the great Gitte Haenning

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