Although she’s best known to Americans for her ’60s pop hits, Lulu is one of a small handful of great female soul singers to emerge from the U.K., with a subtly raspy voice that’s effortlessly expressive without aping the mannerisms of the American R&B vocalists who first inspired her.
Possessing an effervescent personality to match her musical talent, a 15-year-old Lulu (born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in Glasgow) achieved British stardom in 1964 with a raucous reading of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” that belied the singer’s age and nationality. She made her U.S. breakthrough three years later with the sublime pop ballad “To Sir, with Love” (from the film of the same name, in which Lulu had a prominent acting role), which became 1967’s No. 1 U.S. single. She shed her teen image with 1970’s rootsy New Routes, recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with such gritty Southern players as Duane Allman.
Although her stateside chart status faded in the ’70s, Lulu has remained a beloved institution overseas, touring successfully, scoring sporadic comeback hits and enjoying a long run as a television personality in Britain. Although she’s retained her vocal magnificence over the decades, she’s never actually performed a New York concert—a situation that she’ll remedy with this one-off club gig, for which she’ll be backed by a pickup combo of local pros, including late-night TV-band staples Will Lee, Paul Shaffer and Jimmy Vivino.—Scott Schinder
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