In the 1960s, British former child star Petula Clark recorded in many languages. In Germany she enjoyed hits throughout the decade, both in English and in German.
She was born Sally Clark on 15 November 1932 in Ewell, Surrey, near London. Known as Petula from a very early age, she became a child star in the UK, making frequent appearances on the radio, on television and in films and scoring a string of hits in the 1950s.
In 1957, she was invited to sing in French for the Vogue record label, which had links with London’s Pye Records. It was then she met French publicist Claude Wolff, who she married in June 1961. She began recording in French – and later in German, Italian and Spanish – having learnt the words phonetically.
She became the first British singer to enjoy a German chart topper sung in German. Monsieur, penned by Karl Goetz and Kurt Hertha and issued in the autumn of 1962, sold a million copies and spent 33 weeks in the German charts – 21 of which were in the top ten and five at the top spot.
The following year, she enjoyed further top 40 hits with Warum muß man auseinandergeh’n and Alles ist nun vorbei, a cover of US singer Dionne Warwick’s Anyone who had a heart, which fellow British singer Cilla Black had just taken to the top of the UK charts.
At home, Petula was considered distinctly passé. Indeed, she was on the verge of giving up on the British market in order to concentrate on continental Europe, particularly France, where she was living by this time, having married Frenchman Claude Wolff three years earlier.
But then she was offered Downtown, the song that turned her career around in the UK and made her a star in the United States. Her German recording of the song, also called Downtown, topped the German charts and spent a total of 21 weeks in the top ten. It was the first of a string of releases penned by Tony Hatch, and it is often thought that his compositions worked better when translated into German than into French.
For the follow up, she released I know a place, taking it into the top 40 in July 1965, though her German recording of the song, Come on my boy, missed the mark altogether.
1966 was a busy year for the singer in Germany. The original German composition Es steht in den Sternen reached number 35 in the charts in February 1966, and was quickly followed by Kann ich dir vertrauen.
My love marked a return to form, making number 13 and its German translation, Verzeih die dummen Tränen, also charted. So wunderbar, verliebt zu sein, a version of I couldn’t live without your love, rounded off the year.
In 1967 she scored hits with both This is my song and its German version, Love – so heißt mein Song. However, the singer paid a high price for its success. Its middle-of-the-road style put off her younger audience. The ‘easy listening’ tag stuck from this point.
She went on to enjoy two further successes in Germany in the 1960s, with 1967’s Alle Leute wollen in den Himmel, a cover of her French release Tout le monde veut aller au ciel, and 1968’s Kiss me goodbye. The follow up, Vom Wind verweht, proved a curious choice. The A-side was another adult-oriented song, while the flip, Du bist für mich ein Mann, was the original backing track to one of her best songs, 1965's Donne-moi des fleurs (which she had co-written and is known in English as Gotta tell the world), with newly recorded German lyrics.
She made a return to the German top 20 in 1988 with a remixed version of Downtown.
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