Kiki Dee – still loving and free

Mar 2020 Kiki Dee – still loving and free

By Ian Woolley

For 25 years, Kiki Dee has toured with celebrated guitarist Carmelo Luggeri, in which time they have written and recorded several albums together with their new one due out later in the year.
Back in 1994, they first got together after being introduced through a friend. Born Pauline Matthews in Yorkshire in 1947, Kiki began entering singing competitions from the age of around six before being spotted and signed to Fontana Records.

As a solo artist, her first preferred name was going to be Kinky Dee. Kiki recalls: “I spoke with my dad about their suggestion of giving me the name of Kinky Dee and he thought it sounded like a stripper! The record label were quite insistent that it had a 60s feel to it with Kinky Boots being played everywhere it would catch on. But we settled in the end for Kiki.

“To this day, there are very few of my name out there.”

Althiough she had little chart success on her own, her reputation as a session singer began to get the attention of the music industry scouts. Her voice can be heard on ‘Little By Little’, and the 1965 song Why Don’t I Run Away From You’ deserved to be a hit ,which eventually made the charts for Tami Lynn and became a Northern Soul classic. Kiki said: “It was a great time working with some big names like Dusty Springfield. It was very poignant that when she (Dusty) was at her lowest points of her troubled life she sent me a letter wishing me all the best for the future. That meant so much to me at the time.”

Kiki also appeared on several TV shows such as the Morecambe and Wise show, The Two Ronnies, and The Benny Hill show. In 1970, however, she became the first female artist to be signed to Tamla Motown and recorded several unsuccessful singles in their Detroit studios. Her big break came a few years later when she signed for Rocket. I asked Kiki about the immediate turn around in her musical career.

“Working and being part of the ‘family’, I had a great and close musical relationship with Elton which continues to this day. I sang backing vocals on his album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and began writing songs”, Kiki recalled.

Her first chart success came in a cover of the Véronique Sanson song Amoureuse, which almost made the Top 10. Elton produced the single. Then came ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’ which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Then, in 1976, with Elton now a big star in his own right, along came ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ written under the pseudonyms of Ann Orson & Carte Blanche. Kiki said: “There have been rumours it was meant to be sung with Dusty but that isn’t true. The song was going to be released as a solo. We went into the studio and shot the video in one take…20 minutes… we were all done, and of course, it got played on Top of The Pops and took us to the top of the charts.” It’s worth mentioning that they almost got to the top of the charts again in 1993 with their version of True Love.
“I think it was Mr Blobby that stopped us getting there,” Kiki said.

 

Kiki Dee relaxes with The Beat

“I took over from Barbara Dickson and we took it on a year tour, and by the time we opened on the West End in 1988, we all had polished our performances. Blood Brothers would have never lasted as long as it did if we hadn’t. It was a great show and I was very proud to be part of it”, Kiki added.

Kiki did have low points in her life as she revealed in our talk. “I was around 40 when I was diagnosed as having cancer of the womb. Although I didn’t have chemo and the op was successful, it makes you take stock of your life from that moment on. I decided to enjoy what I had going for me and not try and be a huge star and chase all of the things needed to become that”.

I asked her why she had never married. “Perhaps the boyfriends that came along were at the wrong time or the wrong boyfriends came at the right time and so it never happened. Now in my life I am content and happy in being in the company of myself. I’ve got used to just being alone, I guess” said Kiki.

For many years she has lived happily in her cottage in a quaint village in Hertfordshire.
Does she still keep in contact with Sir Elton? I asked her. “Every birthday, he sends me an orchid in a pot. It used to be a magnum of champagne but I guess his birthday list is quite vast these days, so he has to make cutbacks somewhere!” she laughed. “On his birthday I donate to his Aids Trust, so he’s happy with that. Anyway, what do you buy a man who has every-thing he wants?”

With the recent release of Rocketman, which tells about the life of Elton, what did Kiki think of it? “I thought it was great. Rachel Muldoon, who plays the part of me, has been in touch and I thought she played my part superbly. It deserves now to be a stage musical, which I’m sure it will be,” said an enthused Kiki.

Now with 40 singles and 12 albums to date, I asked Kiki was there more in her?

“I’m currently working on my new album (yet untitled) with Carmello and it should be ready about autumn time. We also have a tour of Australia coming up with Carmello which gives us the freedom to write songs on the road – which I enjoy so much.”

Lastly, is there anybody she would love to record with?
“A while back, Robert Plant asked if he could work with me, and as a huge fan of his, I naturally said yes. It turned out he wanted ME to back him with his band Saving Grace, and we appeared together on The Old Grey Whistle Test TV reunion. So yes, I would love to sing with him in a pub one day – who knows!”