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Lulu - Profile

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 8 / 3 / 2024

Lulu - Profile

Scottish singer Lulu is soon to begin her final tour. After over 60 years on the road, she wants to bring the touring phase of her life to an end. She says, “I will still do an odd concert here and there and will never stop singing. But I am 75 now and won't do more tours.” The final tour will be called ‘Champagne For Lulu’ after a phrase made popular when she appeared on ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ as a despairing client of Jennifer Saunders' hapless PR guru Edina. “It was great that Jennifer came up with that phrase on AdFab,” Lulu says. “Now I can be walking down a street anywhere and strangers shout out to me, “Champagne for Lulu” which always makes me laugh!” Lulu hopes some of her musician friends might join her on some dates during the forthcoming tour. She's mentioning no names, though she is very well connected. She is good friends with Sir Paul McCartney for over half-a century, close to Sir Elton John who helped revitalise her career in the 1990s, big pals with Gary Barlow of ‘Take That’ - and there are so many others, too. 60 years is a long time to be working as a singer. “I never planned to leave Glasgow,” Lulu recalls. “I just wanted to be a hairdresser during the day and a singer at night. I started out as Marie Lawrie and grew up in the tenements after the war when money was pretty tight. My dad could always sing - he sounded like Pavarotti - and people said when I was just 13 that I sounded like an old, blues soul in a young girl's body.” Lulu was discovered at 14 in a Glasgow disco by an agent, Marion Massey, who gave her the name “Lulu” as she was “a real Lulu of a kid.” Lulu's first hit was a powerful rendition of ‘Shout’ which has remained her signature tune, sung at every gig. Suddenly, she was in a crazy world of frantic, screaming fans - males and females - as she started touring. The performers then had little power and the big record companies controlled everything. So, how did Lulu survive the sexist 60s? “The touring was exciting, but it could also be terrifying,” Lulu remembers. “I was very fortunate, though, to have a wonderful manager in Marion Massey. She looked after me for over 25 years and I was very protected. Having someone who was a woman, and a mother, looking after me made a big difference.” Lulu's career went very well through most of the 1960s – including acting in the Sidney Poitier film, ‘To Sir With Love’ for which she also sang the theme tune. This became the biggest selling single of 1967 in the USA! But Lulu lost some credibility with her soul-loving fans when she won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969 with ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang.’ Eurovision was very unfashionable back then, with many who were serious about music, and Lulu's records weren't hits for a few years after that. Even her theme song for the 1974 James Bond film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ failed to reverse this trend and Lulu was disheartened. However, unexpectedly, David Bowie then intervened. As Lulu recalls in her memoir, ‘I Don't Want To Fight,’ she had recently divorced Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees after a four-year marriage and she was feeling rather low about her career when Bowie approached her. She was thrilled that he said he loved her voice. “He thought I was so cool – which I definitely did not feel. It was amazing.” The two soon embarked on an affair (with the full knowledge of Bowie's wife Angie) and Bowie gave Lulu a song called, ‘The Man Who Sold The World,’ which was released 50 years ago this year. They spent a lot of time together between the recording of the song and its release. Bowie gave Lulu other songs, too, but these have been lost over the subsequent years. However, Lulu gradually became uneasy about Bowie's increasingly hedonistic, drug-fueled lifestyle in New York. She decided it was all too much for her and she needed to escape back to the UK. In 1977, she married hairdresser John Frieda who she’d been friends with for years. They had a son, Jordan, who is now an actor and restaurateur. After settling down with John Frieda, Lulu became popular on TV and found herself doing a lot of light entertainment work. She now sees the 1980s as a low point in her career - the worst moments coming when doing pantomime with Jeremy Beadle in Lewisham, South London. By the early 1990s, Lulu had changed managers - finally parting company with Marion Massey. Sir Elton John helped her revive her career, and when she performed with Gary Barlow and Take That, she suddenly found she had legions of fans from a new and younger generation. In 1991, Lulu split up with John Frieda who went to live in America with their son Jordan. The three of them are now on very good terms. However, Lulu won't discuss current relationships. “It's pathetic to talk about any of that,” she says in her forthright Glasgow way adding, “What am I? 15-years old?” Meditation, yoga and acting classes have been a big help to her surviving over the years, Lulu says. She co-stars with Diane Keaton and Patricia Hodge in the 2024 late-life British comedy drama film ‘Arthur's Whisky’ directed by Stephen Cookson - currently in cinemas. She is also working on a new memoir, putting together a documentary film and recording a new album of collaborations. Plus, there's her upcoming tour, 'Champagne for Lulu'. Lulu enjoys all her activities, but singing remains closest to her heart. “I just cannot believe I am 75. I don't feel that age at all. I am doing these tour dates to celebrate the long career I have enjoyed. Celebration! That's what is important to me now!”

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Lulu - Profile

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Nick Dent-Robinson looks back on the career of Scottish singer Lulu, who has recently announced that her forthcoming 'Champagne for Lulu' tour will be her final tour.


Interview (2015)
Lulu - Interview
Lulu speaks to Nick Dent-Robinson about her love of touring and her new album 'Making Life Rhyme', for which she co-wrote most of the songs.

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