I know what you’re thinking: How can it be that it’s Black History Month again, already? It seems to come up faster with each passing year. No sooner do I finish cleaning up all the gift wrap and decorations from 2009’s BHM festivities when – BAM! – time to break ‘em out again for 2010.
But I am excited! I love draping my house in the traditional BHM crushed-velvet flour sacks, heated bear skins, and twinkling, sapphire, mailboxes. We gather together around the hot oil printing press and sing BHM carols, get tipsy on Pancake-Sausage Nog, and remind each other, with love in our hearts, not to forget to turn off the air conditioner before leaving the house. Oh, joy! Oh sweet, unmitigated joy!
Of all these rituals, my favorite is the singing of the carols. I thought I’d share some of them with you, and invite you to sing along with me! Just click on a song below and belt one out. If you’re at work, or reading this on your iPhone while standing in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s, or simultaneously looking at Internet porn (way to multi-task!) – no matter! Sing all the louder! Let everyone know: You’re Black and You’re Proud!
76 year old English singer/composer/actress Petula Clark holds the distinction of being the most successful British female solo recording artist ever, with a career that spans seven decades and that has racked up record sales of over 70 million units. For this feat she has been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Additionally Clark was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 1998 when she was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire).
Clark, whose number one hits include "Downtown," "My Love" and "This Is My Song," and whose other big hits include "I Know A Place" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway" (video below), made her first public performace singing at age 7 as part of a retail store promotion.
Her professional career began a few years later when the talented young girl became an entertainer on BBC Radio during World War II when she performed an inspired rendition of "Mighty Lak' a Rose." Clark was a few weeks shy of celebrating her tenth birthday. She would go on to perform approximately 500 times in radio programmes designed to entertain the British troops during the War. At this same time she would tour the UK with (fellow child performer) Julie Andrews, earning herself the nickname of "Britain's Shirley Temple."
In 1944 (at age 12) she made her big screen debut in Medal For The General playing the character of Irma in the film. This led to her appearing in a string of films (many B-movies), including Strawberry Roan, I Know Where I'm Going!, London Town, and Here Come the Huggetts. She continued making films, about 30 in all, for the next four decades. It was In 1949 when Clark, who had still to turn seventeen, released her first single and in 1954 scored her first top ten hit, "The Little Shoemaker," which would be the first of string of hits for the artist. 1961's "Sailor" would be her first UK #1 hit and "Downtown" (video below) would be her first US #1 hit single in 1964. The 1960's was her decade, with other Petula Clark hits including "I Know a Place," "My Love," "Colour My World," "A Sign of the Times," and "Don't Sleep in the Subway."