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Dame Shirley Bassey ‘humbled’ as honour recognises music career spanning decades

29 Dec 2023 5 minute read
Dame Shirley Bassey who has been made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the New Year Honours list. Photo Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Dame Shirley Bassey has said she is “truly humbled” to be made a Companion of Honour in the New Year Honours list.

The Welsh singer, 86, is recognised for her services to music this year after previously becoming a dame in the 1999 honours list.


Dame Shirley said in a statement to the PA news agency: “Receiving the Order of the Companions of Honour is just one of the most wonderful feelings.

“Music has been a constant companion in my life. As a little girl growing up in Tiger Bay, I would dream of travelling the world and never imagined that one day, my voice would take me to where I am now.

“Every step of my career has been about taking that chance, believing in myself and making that leap.

“I live to sing and love to perform. Entertaining audiences for over 70 years has been a privilege. My heart is full of emotion and I am truly humbled.”

Dame Shirley was born the youngest of seven children in Tiger Bay, Cardiff.

Her early jobs included working in a factory’s wrapping and packing department while she sang at working men’s clubs at weekends.

Shirley Bassey, 25-year-old singing star from Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, beginning a season at the Talk of The Town in London. PA Wire

After touring Britain in revues and variety shows, she enjoyed her first hit in 1957, with the calypso-style Banana Boat Song.

With her powerful voice, lavish gowns, and extravagant arm and hand movements, she became the first Welsh singer to score a number one single, in January 1959, with As I Love You from the album The Bewitching Miss Bassey.

Brit Award

She was the first recipient of the Brit Award for best British female solo artist in 1977, and the first musician to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Cardiff.

Such has been her success that even into the 1990s, her records have spent more time in the UK charts than those of any other British female performer.

Twenty-nine of her albums were registered as best sellers between 1961 and 1991.

In 1964 she had a major hit in the United States with Goldfinger, one of three title songs she has performed for James Bond films. She also recorded the theme songs for Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.

In 1997 she scored a notable hit with Propellerheads on History Repeating, and in 2005 she featured on the top 10 hit Diamonds Are From Sierra Leone by Kanye West.

In 2007 Dame Shirley wore a bedazzled pink dress with a feathered train to perform at the Glastonbury music festival.

The outfit, by Welsh designer Julien Macdonald, was completed with a pair of bejewelled Wellington boots with her initials DSB on the side.

Royal mint

This year the Royal Mint released a limited-edition series of coins created in her honour, with a design featuring the name and silhouette of the Big Spender singer striking her famous arms-outstretched pose.

The coin is embossed with the names of her three James Bond theme tunes and also pays tribute to the performer’s roots through a small depiction of the Welsh dragon.

In September, Royal Mail issued a set of 12 special stamps to mark 70 years since the start of Dame Shirley’s career.

She is the first solo female music artist to be honoured with a dedicated stamp issue.

The stamps include Dame Shirley singing at the Pigalle nightclub in 1965, in Bournemouth in 1974, at the BBC Electric Proms in 2009, singing World In Union with Bryn Terfel during the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup in 1999, and performing during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, in 2013.

Other Welsh recipients in the New Year Honours list are:

Elyn (Ellie) Neville has been awarded a BEM for services to charitable services to Cancer Patients and to Cancer Services in Pembrokeshire. Ellie is 13 years old and when she was just 5 and a half, raised £500 for the cancer ward at Withybush Hospital that cared for her father when he was receiving cancer treatment. She is now the face of a fundraising appeal that has raised over £210,000 for improvements to cancer services at Withybush Hospital.

Wendy Barnett has been awarded a BEM for services to the community in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. She has been a Guide Leader in Pembrokeshire for 55 years and over 1,000 girls, between the ages of 11 and 16 have benefitted from her advice and encouragement. For the past 20 years, she has arranged the annual Pembrokeshire Christmas Parcel Scheme, where food parcels are delivered to families who are struggling. Last Christmas, over 100 families benefited from this project.

Wayne Griffiths has been awarded a BEM for services to Fundraising for Cancer Care and Cancer Research. After losing his daughter to cervical cancer at just 25, he has worked tirelessly to raise funds for organisations that provide high quality care for cancer patients and their families. He has raised more than £900.000 to support Velindre Cancer Centre and
has also raised £200,000 for Macmillan.

Howard Provis has been awarded an MBE for services to the community in Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan and to the Welsh Blood Transfusion Service. He has donated blood over 500 times with 1,050 credits, becoming one of the Welsh Blood Service’s (and UK’s) largest donors – even donating blood to be transported while living abroad in Germany.

Deborah (Debbie) Turnbull has been awarded an MBE for services to water safety education for young people and their families. She founded the non-profit organisation River and Sea Sense following the death of her son who drowned in 2006 and has since educated over 500,000 children and adults on the importance of water safety. She organises basic first aid and CPR training with the Royal Life Saving Society, with special focus on secondary school children.

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5 months ago

Yes well deserved but under cover of the people that deserve it, Truss has her list out.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 months ago

I have zero respect and zero admiration for shirley bassey! She’s a tax exile, turning her back on her roots as soon as she was able to — she’s Monacoian (as opposed to Monégasque, as she lives in Monaco but not born there).

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