When it comes to naming all-time-great singers, Dame Shirley Bassey is definitely in the conversation. She’s had an amazing career, but it could be argued that her personal life has been just as eye-catching. From turbulent romances to personal tragedies, the musician has gone through a lot. So, with the aid of some rarely publicized photos, let’s lift the curtain on Bassey’s remarkable story.
She was the youngest of seven children
Bassey was born in January 1937 into a very large family. Her parents, Henry and Eliza, already had six kids at home in Tiger Bay, Wales. Little did they know that number seven would grow up to become a superstar!
When she was just a toddler, her family life suddenly changed. Bassey’s parents split up, which resulted in her mom taking the children to a new home: the Welsh capital city, Cardiff.
She “sang as soon as she could talk”
Despite the upheaval, one thing soon became apparent: Bassey loved singing, even as a very young child. In fact, one of her sisters claimed that she “sang as soon as she could talk.” But singing didn’t run in the family.
In the book Shirley Bassey: Diamond Diva, she said, “Nobody in my family sings. There was probably some ancestor out there chanting for rain with this powerful voice centuries ago.”
Singing got her into trouble at her first job
Bassey’s passion for music didn’t fade with time. Even when she walked away from her school studies as a young teen to get a factory job, it was never far from her mind. She just couldn’t stop singing! And it got her into hot water at times.
Bassey told The Daily Telegraph, “The supervisor would say, ‘Bassey, what do you think you’re doing? All of you, get back to work!’ The whole factory would stop. I didn’t realize what I was doing.”
Working the club circuit
Fortunately, Bassey soon found a better-suited outlet where she could give free rein to her powerful voice: the local club circuit. As quoted by The Daily Telegraph, she said, “I had a great time.”
“Every Thursday there was the factory club: archery, darts, dancing.” As this photo shows here, Bassey was right at home on stage. And the experience opened the door to a very exciting opportunity.