Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey, DBE (born January 8, 1937), is a Welsh singer, perhaps best-known for performing the theme songs to the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Moonraker (1979). She is the only singer to have recorded more than one James Bond theme song. Bassey was born at 182 Bute Street, Tiger Bay, Cardiff to a Nigerian father who was a seaman, while her mother came from Yorkshire, North England.
Bassey was born at 182 Bute Street, Tiger Bay, Cardiff to a Nigerian father who was a seaman, while her mother came from Yorkshire, North England. She grew up in the notorious working-class district of Tiger Bay, Cardiff, a place known then as the Cardiff Red Light District, as the youngest of seven children. Her father died when she was two years old.
Bassey attended Moorland Primary School, Splott, Cardiff.
Bassey first found employment packing in a local factory when she left school at the age of fifteen. She enjoyed singing while she packed enamel pots, and to supplement her wage she sang in local pubs and clubs. In 1953, she signed up for the revue Memories of Jolson, a musical based on the life of Al Jolson. She next took up a professional engagement in Hot From Harlem, which ran until 1954.
By this time Bassey had become sick of show business, and had become pregnant at 16 years old with her daughter Sharon, so she went back to waitressing in Cardiff. However, in 1955, a chance recommendation of her to Michael Sullivan, a Streatham-born booking agent, put her firmly on course for her destined career. He saw talent in Bassey, and decided he would make her a star. She toured various theatres until she got an offer of the show that put her firmly on the road to stardom, Al Read's Such Is Life. While she starred in this show, Philips A&R and record producer Johnny Franz spotted her on television, was impressed, and offered her a record deal.
Bassey recorded her first single, entitled "Burn My Candle", and Philips released it in February 1956, when Bassey was just nineteen. Owing to the suggestive lyrics, the BBC banned it, but it sold well nonetheless, backed with her powerful rendition of "Stormy Weather". Further singles appeared, and, in February 1957, Bassey scored her first hit with "Banana Boat Song", which peaked at number 8 on the UK singles chart. During that year, she also recorded under the direction of U.S. producer Mitch Miller in America for the Columbia label, producing the single "If I Had A Needle And Thread"/"Tonight My Heart She Is Crying".
In mid-1958, she recorded two singles that would end up as classics in the Bassey catalogue. "As I Love You" appeared as a b-side to another ballad, "Hands Across The Sea". It did not sell well at first, but, after a chance appearance at the London Palladium, things began to pick up. In February 1959, it made number one and stayed there for 4 weeks. Bassey also recorded "Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me" at this point, and while "As I Love You" raced up the charts, so too did this record, with both songs being in the top three at the same time.
A few months later, Bassey signed to EMI Columbia, and the second phase in her recording career had begun.
 1960 to 1980
Throughout the 1960s, Bassey scored with numerous hits on the British charts and, in 1965, scored her only U.S. Top Ten hit with the title song of the James Bond film, Goldfinger. Owing to the success of that song, she appeared frequently on many American television talk shows hosted by the likes of Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas. She signed with the United Artists label in the late sixties and in 1970 released the album "Something" which showcased a new modern Bassey style. The single of the same name was more successful in the UK charts than the original Beatles recording. The success of "Something" (Single #4, Album #5) spawned a series of hugely successful albums on the UA label, with "Something Else" 1971 , "Never Never Never" 1973, "The Shirley Bassey Singles Album" 1975 and "25th Anniversary Album" 1978 all making the U.K. Top Ten.
Album cover of Shirley Bassey's successful 1970 album, Something
Album cover of Shirley Bassey's successful 1970 album, Something
In 1971 she recorded the title theme for "Diamonds Are Forever", later sampled by Kanye West for his 2005 hit "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" which won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Rap Song. Bassey recorded her final title theme for the Bond films with Moonraker in 1979. Between 1970 and 1979, Bassey had 18 hit albums in the UK charts and starred in two highly rated BBC TV series.
 1980 onwards
Throughout most of the 1980s, Bassey focused on charitable works and performing occasional concert tours throughout Europe and the United States. She recorded less often, but released an album in 1984 of her most famous songs, I Am What I Am, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. She released a single in 1986 "There's No Place Like London", written by Lynsey De Paul and Gerard Kenny. In 1987, she provided vocals for Swiss artists Yello on "The Rhythm Divine", a song co-written by Scottish singer Billy Mackenzie. Also in 1987, she released an album La Mujer sung entirely in Spanish. In 1996, she collaborated with Chris Rea in the movie La Passione appearing in the film as herself and releasing the single "Disco La Passione". In 1997, she caused a sensation in the UK with her song "History Repeating" with the Propellerheads which scored a #1 ranking on the British Dance Music Charts, introducing Bassey to a new generation of fans. The liner notes of the Propellerheads' album Decksandrumsandrockandroll included the line 'We would like to extend our maximum respect to Shirley Bassey for honouring us with her performance. We are still in shock...'. During her UK Tour in 1998, 120,000 people saw Dame Shirley live and she smashed her own record in London for the longest run by a solo artist at the Royal Festival Hall with ten sold out shows. In 1999 she recorded the Official song for the Rugby World Cup "World In Union" with Bryn Terfel and performed at the opening ceremony at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
In 2003, Bassey celebrated 50 years in show business and released the CD, Thank You For The Years which entered the Top 20 album chart. A Gala Charity Auction of her stage costumes at Christie's "Dame Shirley Bassey: 50 Years of Glittering Gowns" raised ?250,000 to go towards the Dame Shirley Bassey Scholarship at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital Appeal.
With thirty-one hits in the UK Singles Chart, which span a record forty-two year period for a female vocalist, plus thirty-five hit LPs in the corresponding UK Albums Chart, she has become Britain's most successful female chart artist of all time.
Two very popular Audiences With Shirley Bassey have aired on British TV, the most recent being in March 2006. Dame Shirley Bassey returned to perform in five arenas around the UK in June 2006, which culminated at Wembley on 9 June. She also performed a concert in front of 10,000 people at the Bryn Terfel Faenol Festival in North Wales which was broadcast by BBC Wales on 30 August 2006.
"Where Do I Begin (Away Team Remix)," from Shirley's 2001 remix album, The Remix Album: Diamonds Are Forever, is featured in one episode of Showtime's The L Word, Season 2 and on Season 1 of Nip/Tuck on the FX Network.
Marks & Spencer signed her for their Christmas 2006 "James Bond style" TV advertising campaign. Bassey is seen in a glamorous Ice Palace singing a cover version of Pink's song, "Get the Party Started" wearing an M&S gown. The advert, launched in November 2006, also includes famous models, such as Twiggy.
A new single, "The Living Tree", written and originally recorded by London duo Never the Bride, was released on 23rd April 2007. The Living Tree CD included a number of remixes, designed to appeal to the club chart. The single entered the UK singles chart at no.37. This marked Bassey's 50th anniversary in the singles chart (1957-2007) and gave her the record for the longest span of top 40 hits in UK chart history. A new album "Get The Party Started" is due for release in June 2007.
Shirley Bassey will be performing at 2007's Glastonbury festival
 Personal life
Bassey has had two daughters and one adopted son. She has been married twice. The first time was to Kenneth Hume (from 1961 to 1965, when they divorced). Her second husband was Sergio Novak. Bassey and Novak were married from 1968 until they divorced in 1977. Bassey's second daughter, Samantha, was found dead in 1985 after having apparently jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England. Bassey has always insisted the death of her daughter was not suicide.
In recognition of her career longevity, endurance and a particular admiration from the Royal Family, Bassey was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire (the female equivalent of a Knight Commander) on 31 December 1999 by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
She was invited to perform in 2002 at the Party at the Palace, a public celebration of Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. She was also awarded France's top honour, the Legion d'Honneur, to signify her enduring popularity and importance in the culture of France.
She now resides in Monaco, and has recently sold her London apartment. Many of its furnishings were auctioned for charity.