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Shirley Bassey: Ultimate Bond girl found her voice again in Aberdeen

Dame Shirley Bassey proved diamonds are forever but gold lasts even longer when she thrilled her fans in Aberdeen in 1991 and 1992.
Dame Shirley Bassey proved diamonds are forever but gold lasts even longer when she thrilled her fans in Aberdeen in 1991 and 1992.

Ultimate Bond girl Dame Shirley Bassey found her voice again to Keep the Music Playing in Aberdeen 30 years ago.

The Welsh icon picked herself up and returned to the stage not long after the sudden death of her 21-year-old daughter Samantha in 1985.

But trying to sing through her grief only caused injury to her vocal cords.

Dame Shirley Bassey returned to the stage too early after tragedy struck her family in 1985.

For six months she couldn’t sing at all before she worked with vocal coach Helena Shenel who gave her back the voice she thought she had lost.

Dame Shirley found high notes and a falsetto she never knew she had and released the album Keep the Music Playing which got to number 25 in the UK in May 1991.

Several of the song arrangements reflected an operatic pop style influence and the singing legend announced a UK tour in support of the album.

Struck down by acute bronchitis

She was due to perform at the AECC before being struck by acute bronchitis and she was ordered by her doctors to remain on bed rest until further notice.

She postponed three tour dates including the Aberdeen show which was moved to Saturday June 8 to allow Dame Shirley to rest her voice and recover fully.

She proved worth the wait from the minute she walked in the joint.

Dame Shirley performed songs from her new album and her greatest hits which included the theme songs to three James Bond movies.

Dame Shirley Bassey pictured in 1991.

The Evening Express said: “She was maybe three weeks late but Shirley Bassey proved her old-time entertainment was every bit worth waiting for.

“From her glitzy dress to that unmistakeable voice, Shirley sparkled at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on Saturday like the true star she’s been for decades.

“Whether her numbers were old or new, borrowed or blue, Shirley filled the massive concert venue with more emotion and atmosphere than anybody probably ever thought possible.

“She dazzled her fans with favourites like Goldfinger and Hey Big Spender; stirred their hearts with covers like Don’t Cry Out Loud and the Greatest Love of All; and then sent them home with the unforgettable This Is My Life.

“And as if that voice wasn’t enough, she gave them bags of bubbly personality, a first-class orchestra and a stunning extravaganza of light and colour.”

Dame Shirley returned to the AECC in 1992

The girl from Tiger Bay was blown away by the reception from the sell-out crowd and would return the following year as part of a 21-date UK tour in 1992.

Dame Shirley performing at the AECC back in 1992.

Dame Shirley followed up the success of Keep the Music Playing by going back on the road to promote the release of a greatest hits album.

She said it with flowers when she returned to Aberdeen on December 1 during an evening which the Press and Journal reviewer said was “never to be forgotten”.

The P&J said: “After about 18 bars of the Goldfinger theme, where the brass ripped into those famous three notes, Shirley Bassey appeared between orchestra members in a cloud of golden light.

“This is a high that lives with you forever.

“It is a real shock to the system.

“But there was even better to come. As Ms Bassey and her orchestra drove up like a tidal wave to the last chorus of New York, New York, I felt as if I was being swept right to the back of the hall.

“Bobbing in the wake of the applause I saw Shirley Bassey in a pillar of white light stretch out her arms and give herself up to the audience like the sacred host to the congregation.

“Apparently, amazing things happen at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, but nobody told me about miracles – because that is what Shirley Bassey’s voice is.

“When you are in the presence of real stars like Shirley Bassey, there are no questions about their other-worldly status or their abilities.

“It’s a bit like touching a Rembrandt.

“Confronted by such greatness, we are reminded that there are greater things than ourselves.”

Dame Shirley was moved to tears

Dame Shirley made the audience laugh and cry during the sell-out show.

Dame Shirley was visibly moved to tears during some songs at the AECC in 1992.

Many songs visibly moved her to tears and members of the audience approached the stage with gifts and flowers throughout the show.

Dame Shirley returned the favour when she showered the audience with roses during the closing song which was a cover of Hey Jude by The Beatles.

The Shirley Bassey story is one of massive worldwide success after bandleader and impressario Jack Hylton spotted her talent when she was just 17.

From her first recording of the Banana Boat song in the 1950s, she has spent more time in the British charts than any other female performer.

“The fans mean everything to me,” she said.

“I love to sing and perform, of course, but it is my relationship with my fans that really matters.

“That is why I try very hard at the end of concerts not to ignore those people who wait to meet me.

“It is not always easy because venue security sometimes take over, but I do try to speak, shake hands and sign autographs.”

With a career spanning seven decades, Dame Shirley released her grand finale album in January which is entirely dedicated to her fans and career.

Dame Shirley said: “I hope that somehow in my life, through my words and my music, I have made a difference to someone’s life.”