A personal tribute – Goodbye, Jackie Trent

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When Colin Gregory emailed me yesterday, to tell me his wife of the last ten years – Jackie Trent (1940-2015) – had died on March 21st, I couldn’t really believe what I was reading…..

I had a kind of “special” relationship with Jackie, and we kept in touch by email (at infrequent intervals) during many years. So even though we have never met in person, getting an email from Jackie always felt like hearing from a dear old friend. Whether she did this with all of her fans or just me, I don’t know. But she was thrilled to bits the first time I wrote her, and she immediately proclaimed me to be her No 1 Fan in Norway!

 

Jackie used to sign all her mails to me with "Love from Jackie - Big voice, big hair"! This photo shows the latter...

Jackie used to sign all her mails to me with “Love from Jackie – Big voice, big hair”! This photo shows the latter…

 

I guess some of you now wonder – who IS Jackie Trent? Even if the name might not be familiar, her music no doubt will be. As a songwriter Jackie collaborated with her then-husband Tony Hatch, and together they wrote a long list of songs that are now classics. Petula Clark had several hits in the 1960s that were written by Jackie and Tony. There can’t be anyone alive on planet Earth who hasn’t heard songs like “Downtown”, “I Know A Place”, “I Couldn’t Live Without  Your Love”….. In addition, they also wrote the theme song to the Australian TV-series “Neighbours” and the British football team Stoke City got the song “We’ll Be With You” written especially for them – and 40 years on it is still the teams personal anthem, being sung at each and every game. Tony & Jackie wrote more than 400 songs together.

 

Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent - what a team!

Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent – what a team!

 

Jackie the singer is another chapter in the musical life and career of the great Miss Trent. Jackie might joke about her “big voice, big hair” and while the hairdos changed through the years, the voice never did. Jackie was a tremendously gifted singer as well. The girl born as Yvonne Burgess in 1940, made her first record in 1962 – a single called “Pick Up The Pieces”. Renamed Jackie Trent, she was another one of the British big-voiced girls. I don’t know why, but a whole lot of the great caucasian and really soulful girl singers come from Great Britain: Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Cilla Black, Kiki Dee, Sheena Easton, Amy Winehouse, Adele etc., etc. And Jackie is right up there with the rest of them….

By 1963, Jackie was signed to the PYE label, and stayed with them for the next 11 years. And during this era, she made the bulk of her recorded legacy. While she (of course!) recorded her own songs, she also had a great eye for picking winners from other sources and her years on PYE is chock-full of vocal delights.

 

This is the one to get! 50 great recording by Jackie 1963-75

This is the one to get! 50 great recording by Jackie 1963-75

 

The PYE years provided Jackie with many musical highlights, and the collection pictured above is really the one to get. It proves once and for all that as a singer Jackie is just marvelous, and each of the 50 tracks proves it! Whether doing soft ballads or something powerful and up-tempo, Jackie is right on target. Her spectoresque treatment of Edith Piafs classic “If You Love Me, Really Love Me” sounds like it’s produced by the man himself. And while the music also here is indeed a wall of sound, Jackie cuts right through and delivers a truly powerful vocal. “Time After Time” is an old evergreen that has been done by hundreds of singers through the years. Jackies version is an updated one, making it sound like a completely new song, and another stunning vocal performance.

Phil Spector did produce the Ronettes version of “You, Baby” – but he and Ronnie Spector must have been tearing their (big) hair out when they heard what Jackie did with it. Her take on that song is true perfection! The title track was Jackies only charttopper, and it is still a classic 60s power ballad that has stood the test of time very well. Other highlights are “Love Is Me, Love Is You” (also recorded by Connie Francis in both English and German to great effect), “Goin’ Back” (Jackies version is in the same league as those recorded by Dusty Springfield, Eydie Gorme and Elkie Brooks – all of which are awesome!), “If You Go Away”, “Send In The Clowns”, “Corner Of The Sky” (from “Pippin”) and “Everybody Rejoice” (from “The Wiz”). If just one track has to be specially highlighted, it has to be the fabulous interpretation of Scott Walkers “Such A Small Love”. It is a perfect example on how lyrics, voice and music can perfectly melt together and create true magic. If this doesn’t give you goosepimples all over – nothing ever will!

 

Jackie on stage in 1971, no doubt flooding the audience with great singing

Jackie on stage in 1971, no doubt flooding the audience with great singing

 

After the mid-70’s, Jackie took a rather long break from recording – but she was still performing around the globe, both in concerts and in musicals. Examples of the latter being “Nell” (1969), “The Card” (1973), “Rock Nativity” (1976) and “High Society” (2004).

Jackie personally wrote me in late 2008 to tell me she was planning a new album, the first in more than 30 years. The plans came through all right, and “Trentquility” was released in 2009. It proves that Jackie had lost none of her talent, and her voice and interpretive skills are completely intact. The whole album is great, but the song that stands out is “Handbags And Gladrags”. Compare it with the more famous recordings by Chris Farlow and Rod Stewart, and you will see what dimensions Jackie brings to the intricate melody and cryptic lyrics. Another masterpiece!

 

Her 2009 album "Trentquility" turned out to be last collection of new recordings made by Jackie....

Her 2009 album “Trentquility” turned out to be last collection of new recordings made by Jackie….

 

Her legacy as a singer and composer is stunning, and new versions of Jackies songs are being made every year. She will be remembered as one of the truly great songwriters of the 21st Century, and rightfully so. She should also be remembered as the powerful but emotional singer that she was – a singing actress indeed. Jackie could go from a soft whispering to a big belting sound in a matter of just a few notes, and the kind of singer that she was is the kind you very rarely hear these days.

 

Jackie Trent - forever remembered with much love and admiration

Jackie Trent – forever remembered with much love and admiration

 

My very best to Jackies ex-husband and co-writer Tony Hatch – thanks for creating all that great music! My heart goes out to Jackies children Darren and Michelle, and her husband Colin. To you she was wife and mum, to me she was someone I admired tremendously, and it was always a thrill to get an email from Jackie. I will miss her Christmas greetings this year…..

 

 

 

 

Cancel the party – Lesley Gore is dead

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I received the sad news of Lesley Gore’s passing yesterday. Lesleys fight against cancer was finally ended on February 16 2015.

If anyone could be named the greatest female pop star of the 1960, Lesley was it. When she burst on the scene in 1963, her music, voice and style was something completely new. She was young, she had a new sound, she had Quincy Jones arrange and produce her songs, and her voice was pitch perfect. When “It’s My Party” topped both the US Hot 100 as well as the R’n’B Charts in 1963, the young singer (born May 2, 1946) had well and truly arrived.

 

Lesley Gore in 1963

Lesley Gore in 1963

During the 1960’s, Lesley notched up one chart hit after the other, and she released 8 very good albums. She acted in films and was on TV’s “Batman”. Her looks, sound and music are all the definitive sounds of the 60’s – and as an artist, what she did back then was something we hadn’t heard before. Although some of her original albums from that decade might be hard to get, you can get a very good box set: the German label Bear Family collected ALL of her 1960’s recordings (whether released or not) plus her recordings in other languages on 5 CDs and boxed it all up into the greatest Lesley Gore collection ever. It is (of course) titled “It’s My Party” – and this is indeed a party! You see the Bear Family Box Set pictured below.

On 5 CDs, you get absolutely everything Lesley recorded in the 1960. Bear Family did it again!

On 5 CDs, you get absolutely everything Lesley recorded in the 1960. Bear Family did it again!

In the early 1970s, musical tastes changed, and Lesley cut down on her activities in the studio. With the happy “girl group sound” giving way to more rock oriented material, as well as the emerging singer-songwriter styles of James Taylor and Carole King – Lesley as a 60’s Icon was suddenly outdated…. Still, no changes in musical trends could hide the fact that she is a great singer. A new kind of Lesley thus appeared on her first album of the 70s – called “Someplace Else Now” (released 1972).

Her 1972 album, "Someplace Else Now"

Her 1972 album, “Someplace Else Now”

Choosing not to work a lot during the 1970’s – she did however put out a new album in 1976. Called “Love Me By Name“, it was another great collection of lovely songs performed very well. The title track did get a new life when Dusty Springfield covered it on her 1978 album “It Begins Again“. Then in 1980, Lesley co-wrote some of the songs for the movie soundtrack “Fame” and got herself an Oscar nomination for best song (“Out Here On My Own”)

"Love Me By Name", her 1976 album

“Love Me By Name”, her 1976 album

 

Another album came out in 1982, though it hardly received any promotion, and is probably an album that a lot of people don’t know exists. Titled “The Canvas Can Do Miracles“, it consists of cover versions of a lot of other people’s songs, like Carly Simons “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain”, Dolly Partons hit “Here You Come Again” and “You’re The One That I Want” from the Grease Movie. All the songs are impeccably performed by Lesley, but overall this album isn’t the most essential addition to your collection….

Lesley Gore's little known 1982 album, "The Canvas Can Do Miracles"

Lesley Gore’s little known 1982 album, “The Canvas Can Do Miracles”

During 1986, Lesley was one of the “Legendary Ladies of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, sharing honors with Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, Freda Payne, Shirley Alston of the Shirelles and Brenda Lee. Clips of the ladies during the show is to be found on YouTube, and the standout stunner is Lesley performing her old hit “You Don’t Own Me” – at this time turned into a very powerfully sung feminist anthem!

After 23 years, Lesley finally got into the recording studio once more, for her final album “Ever Since” (2005). This album is yet another great example of good song performed very well, and it was critically acclaimed – but no chart hit. It marked the end of a recording career that spanned 42 years of making great music.

The final album released by Lesley; "Ever Since" (2005)

The final album released by Lesley; “Ever Since” (2005)

 

A lot more active on stages around the world, Lesley was constantly touring and always a great concert attraction. So I guess we should forgive her for not making more records than she did. But looking back on her output, there are indeed many treasures to be found.

From 60s pop princess to 2000s LGBT activist, Lesley pretty much did it all, and she did it extremely well. I still can’t quite comprehend that the gorgeous voice was silenced forever Monday this week – but I will get used to it somehow…

At least I have dozens of great songs to listen to, and although I sure don’t feel like partying, the eternally great voice of Lesley Gore will be able to raise my spirits at any time, years from now!

Lesley Gore pictured after a show in 2011

Lesley Gore pictured after a show in 2011

R.I.P, Lesley – we will cancel the party for now (and I’ll cry if I want to…..)

 

 

 

 

 

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