World's a Stage for Petula
By Bryan Patterson
March 7, 2004 Sunday

You might not know it, but John Lennon once admitted that sixties star Petula Clark was his favourite female singer.

And did you know that "Pet", who has sold more than 70 million records world wide, sang backing vocals on Lennon's Give Peace a Chance.

Or that she appeared on episodes of Monty Python, used to hang out with Charlie Chaplin (she played piano while he danced), was courted by Elvis and started her career during World War II as "England's Shirley Temple"?

Such is the varied life of the perennial nice girl Petula Clark, now 72 and about to hit Australian stages to belt out her evergreens such as Downtown, I Know a Place, This Is My Song and Don't Sleep in the Subway.

Her first recordings were on 78 rpm shellac records. She did not have her first pop hit until she was 30, but that launched her into films (Goodbye Mr Chips and Finian's Rainbow are the best known) and stage shows on Broadway and the West End. She is timeless.

Petula Clark's hits are available in three languages -- she also sings in French and German. Her diehard fans like to collect all the versions.

"Well, they are different," she said this week.

"The language does make the song different. It slightly changes in attitude because there are different emphases in language, the little subtleties that are hard to explain. I know something like This Is My Song just feels different in French and German. No doubt about it.

"And something like Don't Cry For Me Argentina is somehow stronger in French."

One of her biggest hits was This Is My Song, written by Charlie Chaplin, once her neighbour in Switzerland.

"He was a nice man," she said. "I used to go over to his place and he'd play me little tunes that he'd written. I don't know what became of those little songs because I never heard them outside his home."

The first time Clark performed This Is My Song live, at Hollywood Palace, she was tentative.

"I wasn't all that confident about it, but then when I finished there was all this cheering and shouting, I had no idea it would be such a success.

"Charlie liked that I sang it and he liked that it became a hit." Since 2000, Clark has been touring her one-woman show around the world.

The CD/DVD Petula Clark -- The Ultimate Collection is being released soon.

She still loves touring. "I still get enthusiastic about being on stage," she said.

Petula Clark plays the Melbourne Concert Hall on Friday, March 12.