Dutch singer Patricia – or Patricia Paay, as she became known – scored some bright and breezy hits in the 1960s. But she found much greater fame as a disco diva in the 1970s. More recently, appearances in Playboy magazine (including one at the age of 60) and the rise of reality TV have given the singer a new career as an all-round television personality.
She was born Patricia Paaij on 7 April 1949 in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Her father was the leader of a jazz band. Young Patricia showed an interest in music and in performing from an early age, and took piano and ballet lessons as a child.
Her public debut came in 1965 when she appeared on stage with her father’s band. That year she also set up a group with her younger sister, Yvonne, and their friend Anita Meyer. The group would go on to become popular session singers, and in the 1970s Yvonne enjoyed a successful career as Yvonne Keeley.
In 1966 Patricia was offered a contract with the Imperial label and appeared on Dutch television in a 20-minute special called Patricia sings. Two English-language singles followed, No one can love you like I do and You called me baby, but both failed to chart.
These releases and those to follow were credited to the surname-free Patricia.
Her third 45, Je bent niet hip – a version of Siw Malmkvist’s German hit Ein neues Spiel, ein neues Glück – gave Patricia her first success. Issued in the summer of 1967, the song struck a chord with Dutch record buyers, who were charmed by its tale of love for a boy who isn’t rich or clever and is so uncool he prefers tomato juice to beer. The disc spent three months in the Dutch charts, reaching number 12.
Pitched as a Dutch answer to Italian livewire star Rita Pavone, Patricia began a short European tour, appearing in Belgium and Germany as well as her homeland. She also represented the Netherlands at that year’s Knokke festival in Belgium, competing against the likes of Britain’s Dodie West, France’s Alice Dona and Germany’s Suzanne Doucet.
Back at home, a follow up single, Wat moet ik doen, made the top 40 in October that year. The song was a cover of another German hit, Manuela’s Monsieur Dupont, later a top-ten success for Sandie Shaw. (Meanwhile, a second Siw Malmkvist hit, Frech geküßt ist halb gewonnen, was included as the B-side, Love in.)
But Patricia’s chart career was soon to stall. Corriamo, a cover of an Italian tune of the same name by Isabella Iannetti, became her final hit, reaching number 33 in March 1968.
Her next single, Dat is de liefde, a version of Norwegian doll Wenche Myhre’s 1968 Eurovision entry for Germany, Ein Hoch der Liebe, fell flat.
Though Tambourine girl, issued later that year, marked a return to form, it didn’t mark a return to the charts. The song was a translation of Tambourin-Girl, which Patricia had cut and released under the name of Patricia Pay on the EMI label in Germany.
It was the third of three German-language 45s, all issued in 1968. Jetzt oder nie was the first of the three and was quickly followed by Heut’ seh’ ich ihn, both of which were credited to Patty Pay. Fans often cite the bitch-fest B-side of the latter, Bilder und Briefe – where Patricia’s so-called friend calls to tell her that she’s seeing the singer’s boyfriend – as their favourite of her German releases.
(A fourth German disc, Hey Taxi, is sometimes mistakenly credited to Patricia Pay.)
A further attempt to find fame internationally saw the singer take part in the Dutch contest to select an entry for the 1969 Eurovision song contest. Although her Jij was catchy, it finished fifth and was relegated to the B-side of her first single of the year, Kleine tovenaar.
To rub salt into the wound, her follow up release was Sim sala bim, a cover of Lulu’s Boom bang-a-bang, which was one of four songs to share the Eurovision prize that year.
Unhappy with where her career was headed, Patricia gave herself something of a musical makeover. Out went the chirpy sing-along Schlager and in came a sexier, more contemporary sound.
Her first release in the new style, the English-language Fisherman king, was undoubtedly her classiest release to date.
Her final 45 of the decade saw her join up with her sister again for Sing me a love song, a version of a US release by little-known girl group The Glories. The single was credited to The Harbourlights featuring Honey Bee and has caused all sorts of confusion since. Honey Bee was Amsterdam-born singer Ans de Bie, who had previously recorded such gems as Hey girls. However, because Patricia was the best known of the three, it is often assumed she was Honey Bee. The fact that she went on to record briefly as Honey Pie in 1972 has only added muddied the waters further.
After a stint in the group Himalaya (later known as Heart) in the early 1970s, Patricia re-emerged in the mid-1970s as a disco diva. Complete with dodgy perm and the surname Paay, she scored hit after hit with songs such as Who’s that lady with my man (number two in the charts in 1976) and Livin’ without you (number five in 1977). The former, a cover of a track by Britain’s Kelly Marie, remains Patricia’s biggest solo hit.
She enjoyed a further comeback in the early 1980s, with hits including Who let the heartache in (number nine in 1981) and Tomorrow (number six in 1982). At this time, she also became involved in the Stars on 45 project, providing vocals for the Supremes medley, and then performing Andrews Sisters numbers in the Star Sisters project with sister Yvonne Keeley and Sylvana van Veen. The group spent five weeks at number one in the Dutch charts in the summer of 1983 and enjoyed several further hits.
In 1984 Patricia posed naked for Playboy magazine for the first time. (She has appeared in the magazine twice since – most recently in 2009, at the age of 60.)
She made sporadic visits to the recording studios during the remainder of the 1980s and early 1990s until she carved out a new niche for herself – on reality TV. First off, she appeared with husband Adam Curry in the fly-on-the-wall show Adam’s family, before becoming a judge on programmes such as Dancing with the stars, Holland’s got talent and Popstars.
Patricia remains remarkably young looking for her years, thanks to a little help on the surgeon’s table.