hide captionShirley Bassey is back with Get the Party Started, her first new CD in 10 years.
Dame Shirley Bassey has been belting out hits for a half-century — "Big Spender," "Kiss Me Honey Honey" and, of course, title themes for Bond — James Bond.
Bassey, the diva from Wales, celebrated her 70th birthday last year by releasing a new CD, Get the Party Started. It broke the top 40 charts in the U.K. and makes its U.S. debut this week.
The new recording sports pumped-up makeovers of some of Bassey's biggest hits plus a few new tunes, including the title track, a cover of the hit "Get the Party Started," recorded by the American singer Pink.
Bassey's big, brassy voice has retained its wide range and resonance, even though she hasn't cut a new studio record in 10 years.
"I was coaxed into it," Bassey admits, "by a couple of rock chicks, who thought they would make me a rock chick by doing this." The "chicks" were Nikki Lamborn and Catherine Feeney from the group Never the Bride.
Bassey, who was 70 at the time, thought the two women might have a good idea on their hands.
"I thought maybe I could use a change," Bassey says. "But I didn't know it would be that much of a change. I keep trying to put a spoke in the wheel, but they keep coming up with something new."
Feeney and Lamborn even penned a song for Bassey, "The Living Tree," which has been released as a single. Bassey says the women wouldn't give up on her.
"The range of the voice impresses them very much. They think that I can do everything; they'll have me doing opera next."
Bassey's signature song is undoubtedly the flamboyant theme from the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. When she was asked to get involved with the project, Bassey says, she violated a cardinal rule by listening to the music before the lyrics were written.
"I was touring with John Barry, who said, 'I've written the music for the new Bond song, "Goldfinger," but there are no words yet — just listen to the music.' And when I heard those opening notes, I got goose pimples and told him I didn't care what the words were, I'll sing this song."
Bassey was born in Cardiff, Wales, a country known for its love of singing.
"I grew up listening to Judy Garland," Bassey recalls. "My brother was a big fan, so he bought Garland records and Billy Eckstine, and we would sing duets. He would be Eckstine and I would be Garland." Later Bassey met Garland and they became friends.
Bassey's show business career has spanned more than 50 years. She began singing in musicals as a teenager and cut her first single in 1956. She is the only singer to have recorded more than one James Bond theme song, singing the openers for Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker. In 1999, she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England.
At age 71, Bassey is still sassy. She says she has a lot more freedom now compared with when she was 50.
"You can pick and choose. You can tell your manager, 'Go to hell; I'm not doing that,' whereas before I was led by the collar. But now I have a say, which is wonderful."