Kirby was born Kathleen O'Rourke on the 20th October 1938 in
Ilford, Essex. Her singing career started soon after leaving
school when, following a meeting with the bandleader Bert
Ambrose at the Ilford Palais, she managed to secure a job
singing with his orchestra. It was no mean feat for a girl of
such tender years as the Ambrose orchestra, with hundreds of
recordings under its belt, once laid claim to being Britain's
best hotel band of the thirties and had enjoyed audiences that
regularly included royalty.
She stayed with the Ambrose orchestra for three years before
going on to perform with many other big bands of the fifties,
but never lost touch with Bert Ambrose whom she admired, and
who remained her manager until his death in 1971.
Kathy became the highest paid girl singer of the sixties with
several hit singles. However today she is probably best
remembered for her rendition of the Doris Day song 'Secret
Love' with which she made the UK Top 5 in 1963. That same year
she went on to become the Top British Female Singer in the New
Musical Express poll. In 1964, along with other massive names
of the day like the Bachelors, Cilla Black, Brenda Lee,
Millicent Martin, and Cliff Richard and The Shadows, she
appeared in the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium.
Introduced by David Jacobs, she made a spectacular entrance in
a top of the range sports car via the theatre's famous
revolving stage, and the following year she represented the UK
in the Eurovision Song Contest where with 'I Belong' she was
the runner-up to Luxembourg's France Gall who sang 'Poupée de
cire, poupée de son' (Wax doll, bran doll).
During the 1970s, following the death of her manager, Kathy's
fortunes plummeted, and in more ways than one. Suffering
personal bankruptcy and health problems, she made very few
further professional appearances, and in the early 80s she
retired altogether from show business. Today Kathy Kirby lives
a life hidden from the public eye in Kensington, London.
Rumours abound that Kathy Kirby is to be
the subject of a stage musical in London's West End. She is
said to have held talks with producer/director Ernest Maxin,
who is reported as saying, "Her story will make a fabulous
London show - it is perfect for a major musical play. She had
one of the great voices of her, or any other era."
Kathy Kirby's biography was published in 2005. Aptly entitled
Loves and Lip Gloss', it was
written by James Harman - her later manager and a long time
friend. The book has renewed much interest in her and her
music, and an official Kathy Kirby website has been launched.
James Harman has written for us: Kathy Kirby - the UK's highest paid girl singer of the
swinging sixties - was often referred to as Britain's answer
to Marilyn Monroe because of her close resemblance to the
Hollywood icon. Hopefully it won't be ungallant to state
however she sang much better than the American star. It is
generally agreed that the busty glamour girl possessed one of
the finest female singing voices the United Kingdom has ever
produced. Nicknamed 'The Golden Girl of Pop' and 'The Queen of
British Television, she dominated both BBC and ITV with her
Unfortunately however the seventies brought much personal
heartache and screaming headlines about her private life and
it has often been said that she out Garland Judy, but unlike
the Hollywood legend survived it all. For the last quarter of
a Century she has lived a virtual recluse at her home in
London turning down all the frequent offers of work that still
come her way. Her fan base is still huge, with a still massive
Kathy is (was) currently under contract to
take part in a major television documentary on her life and
career being made by Odeon Entertainment. Dame Vera
Lynn's tribute to her was filmed only today, 2nd July 2008.
Watch out for it! Also check out:
for info on Secret Love - the stage adaptation of Kathy's
story which is on tour.
20/05/11:SAD NEWS. Singer Kathy Kirby, best
known for her cover version of Secret Love in 1963, has died
today aged 72yrs, after a short illness. A star has gone out.