Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, OBE (born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, best known by her stage name Lulu, is a Scottish singer–songwriter, actress, model and television personality who has been successful in the entertainment business from the 1960s through to the present day. She is most famous worldwide for her hit "To Sir, with Love" and in the UK for "Shout".
Lulu grew up in Glasgow. Taken under the wing of Marion Massey, she shot to fame at the age of fifteen with her version of The Isley Brothers "Shout". Her backing group were called The Luvvers, but after several more British hits she left the group to become a solo artist. Massey guided her career for more than 25 years, for most of which she was Lulu’s equal partner as a business enterprise. Massey’s husband Mark London also wrote many of Lulu’s hits.
In 1966, Lulu toured Poland with the British rock and roll band The Hollies, making her the first British female singer to appear live behind the Iron Curtain.
She left Decca after failing to place any singles on the chart in 1966 and signed with Columbia to be produced by Mickie Most who also hired Jimmy Page to play guitar on a few sessions. All of the 7 singles she cut and released with Most made the UK chart.
In 1967 she made her debut as a film actress in To Sir, with Love, a British vehicle for Sidney Poitier. She had a major hit with the title song "To Sir, with Love", which shot to number one in the United States (In the UK, it was released only on the B-side of "Let’s Pretend", a No 11 hit.) In the meantime, she continued with a thriving pop career in the UK and several television series of her own. In 1967, Lulu appeared on The Monkees tour at the Empire Pool, Wembley.
On 29 March 1969, she represented the United Kingdom by performing the winning song "Boom Bang-a-Bang" at the Eurovision Song Contest. Lulu had the biggest hit around the continent with the song, recording German, French, Spanish and Italian versions alongside the original English.
She once told John Peel backstage that although she did not like Boom Bang-a-Bang, she’d have sung anything just so long as she won the contest. "I know it’s a rotten song, but I won, so who cares? I’d have sung Baa Baa Black Sheep standing on my head if that’s what it took to win.... I am just so glad I didn’t finish second like all the other Brits before me, that would have been awful."
Despite disliking the song, it was in fact her biggest solo UK hit (reaching number two on the chart in 1969). Only weeks before her Eurovision appearance, Lulu married fellow musical star Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees in a ceremony in Gerrards Cross. They divorced in 1973, but remained on good terms. .
In 1972 she starred in the Christmas pantomime Peter Pan at the Palace Theatre, Manchester where the show was a huge success. She repeated her performance at the London Palladium in 1975, and in different London-based productions from 1987 to early 1989. In the early 1980s Lulu appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance and the Royal National Theatre’s Guys and Dolls. She damaged her vocal cords while performing in the Webber show, requiring surgery that threatened her singing voice.
In 1974 she performed the title song in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Two slightly different versions of the song were used, at the start and end respectively - the end song actually name-checking James Bond. Also during 1974, she did a cover of two of David Bowie’s classic songs, "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Watch That Man". Bowie himself produced the recordings and played saxophone, and provided back-up vocals on it. There were also rumours that they had a brief affair at the time. Lulu confirmed these rumours in her 2002 autobiography. Bowie, perhaps characteristically, evaded comment on the subject.
"The Man Who Sold the World" peaked at number three on the UK chart, her first UK top 10 hit in five years and also her last until 1986.
In 1977, Lulu married John Frieda, who was previously her hairdresser, and remained with him for twenty years until divorcing him in 1995, having separated in 1991. They had one son, Jordan Frieda.
Lulu’s singing career waned, but she continued to remain in the public eye, continuing to act and host her own long running radio show on London’s Capital Radio station. She also became the celebrity spokes-model for Freemans fashion catalogue during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1982, Lulu appeared in the video for Ant Rap alongside Adam and the Ants and was nominated for a Grammy for "Who’s Foolin’ Who" from the "Lulu" album. She won the Rear of the Year award in 1983 and re-recorded a number of her songs. These included "Shout," which reached the Top 10 in 1986 in the UK, securing her a spot to perform on the popular BBC music programme, Top of the Pops. Lulu stopped recording until 1992, focussing instead on TV, acting and live performances. Lulu has had hits on many record labels both in the UK and USA.
In 1993 she guested on the cover version of the Dan Hartman song "Relight My Fire", with boy band Take That. The single reached number one in the British charts and Lulu went on to become Take That’s support act for their 1994 tour. By this time, her marriage to John Frieda was coming to an end, and with the divorce, she released "Independence" in January 1993. The title track from "Independence" just missed the top ten and all four singles released from the album hit the UK charts, as did two later singles released in 1994.
Now officially known as Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, in 2000, she was awarded an OBE. Her 2002 autobiography is called I Don’t Want to Fight after the hit song she and her brother wrote with hit songwriter Steve DuBerry for Tina Turner, which is a song that Lulu later released in 2003, as part of her The Greatest Hits album.
In March 2006, Lulu launched her official MySpace profile, where she could keep in contact with current fans, and reconnect with old ones. Lulu continues to act occasionally and appeared on American Idol Season 6 on 20 March 2007 as a mentor for the female contestants.
She continues to pitch her range of "Lulu’s" anti-ageing products and other cosmetics through the QVC (UK) home shopping channel, using her youthful appearance as a promotional tool.
After appearing at an ABBA tribute concert in Hyde Park, London, during September 2009, Lulu announced that she would be touring the UK in a "Here Come The Girls" concert performance alongside Chaka Khan and Anastacia. The trio have been promoting the concert series on UK TV, ahead of the first performance in November 2009, which will take in 20 different dates.