Pauline Matthews (born 6 March 1947), better known by her stage name Kiki Dee, is an English singer born in Little Horton, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire. She was the first white, female, blue-eyed soul singer from the UK to sign with Motown’s Tamla Records.
Dee is best known for her 1974 hit “I’ve Got the Music in Me” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, her 1976 duet with Elton John, which went to Number 1 both in the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1993 she performed another duet with Elton John for his Duets album, a cover version of Cole Porter’s “True Love”, which reached No. 2 in the UK. During her career, she has released 40 singles, three EPs and 12 albums.
Kiki Dee began singing with a local band in Bradford in the early 1960s. Her recording career began as a session singer. She sang backing vocals for Dusty Springfield, among others, and was well regarded by other singers but did not achieve solo success in the UK for many years. In 1963 Dee released her first single “Early Night”, and recorded her debut album I’m Kiki Dee, which included a series of Phil Spector style tracks and covers for Fontana Records. Her 1966 release “Why Don’t I Run Away From You” (a cover of Tami Lynn’s “I’m Gonna Run Away From You”) was a big hit on Radio London and Radio Caroline, and she sang the B side “Small Town” in her appearance in Dateline Diamonds the same year. Her 1968 release “On a Magic Carpet Ride”, which was originally a B-side, has remained popular with the Northern Soul circuit. Much of her early recorded work for Fontana Records was released on 24 January 2011, on the CD compilation I’m Kiki Dee.
Songwriter Mitch Murray created her stage name and penned her first single, “Early Night”. In the United States she became the first white British artist to be signed by Motown, releasing her first Motown single in 1970.
In the days before BBC Radio 1, Dee was a regular performer of cover versions on BBC Radio, and she starred with a group of session singers in the BBC Two singalong series, One More Time. She also appeared in an early episode of The Benny Hill Show in January 1971, performing the Blood, Sweat and Tears hit, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. Nevertheless, it was only after she signed with Elton John’s label named The Rocket Record Company that she became a household name in the UK. Her first major solo hits were “Amoureuse” (written by Véronique Sanson, with English lyrics by Gary Osborne) (1973) and “I’ve Got the Music in Me” (written by Tobias Stephen Boshell), the latter credited to the Kiki Dee Band (1974). In addition to her burgeoning career as a lead vocalist, she could sometimes be heard singing backing vocals on various Elton John recordings, such as “All the Girls Love Alice” on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and various tracks on Rock of the Westies. Her biggest hit came when she recorded a duet with John, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” in 1976. The single reached No. 1 in both the UK and US, remaining at the top for six weeks in the UK.
Kiki Dee with Elton John
After a quiet period in the late 1970s, Dee launched a comeback in 1981, releasing one of her biggest hits, “Star”, written by Doreen Chanter of the Chanter Sisters. This later became the theme music to the BBC1 programme Opportunity Knocks between 1987 and 1990. Also in 1981, Dee joined forces again with Elton John, recording a cover of the Four Tops’ song “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” which was written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder. Both of these were included on her album Perfect Timing, which became a modest hit on the album chart. In 1983, she supplied backing vocals to Elton John’s album Too Low for Zero. Dee also sang the song “What Can’t Speak Can’t Lie” (1983), composed and recorded by the Japanese jazz fusion group Casiopea, and with lyrics by Gary Osborne. In 1985 she performed at Live Aid, reprising “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with John, and performing backing vocals on the other songs in his set. In 1992, she also contributed backing vocals on John’s The One album, and a year later recorded “True Love” with John for his 1993 Duets album.
Dee released the live album Almost Naked a joint effort between Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri in 1995 followed by the studio albums Where Rivers Meet (1998) and The Walk Of Faith (2005) with musical partner Carmelo Luggeri. In September 2013 Dee and Luggeri released their third studio album A Place Where I Can Go on Spellbound recordings.
Dee’s single “Sidesteppin’ With A Soul Man,” released in October 2013, was her 40th single release.
Dee has also appeared in musical theatre, notably in the lead role in Willy Russell’s West End musical Blood Brothers, in which she took on the role originally played by Barbara Dickson for the 1988 production and recording. She received an Olivier Award nomination in 1989 in the Best Actress in a Musical category. In 1990, she contributed to the last recording studio collaboration between Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, on the album Freudiana, performing “You’re On Your Own” and part of “No One Can Love You Better Than Me”.
In 2008, Dee’s first DVD was released. Under The Night Sky was a collaboration with guitarist Carmelo Luggeri, filmed live at the Bray Studios in London; the music was produced by Ted Carfrae. That same year, several albums from her earlier 1970s-1980s Rocket catalogue were re-released by EMI Records, including an expanded edition of Almost Naked with extra tracks, including a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and a new take on “Sugar on the Floor”. Also that year, Demon Records (UK) issued a remastered edition of Perfect Timing, with several bonus tracks including an alternate mix of “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.”
Dee had previously starred in Pump Boys and Dinettes in London’s West End, at the Piccadilly Theatre, from 20 September 1984 to 8 June 1985.
Kiki Dee has never married. She lived in California with Davey Johnstone, a guitarist in Elton John’s band at the age of 28. In her late thirties, she was diagnosed with an early stage of uterine cancer. (by wikipedia)
Kiki Dee, 1967
And this is her first LP … in fact a compilation of her many singles from 1866 and 1967:
Kiki Dee is a star.
I don’t know how old you have to be, how experienced you to be or sometimes how good you have to be, to rate that status, but she is. The strange thing is that we know who is and who isn’t. Not that ‘we’ in show business, but ‘we’ people. The viewers and the listeners. When there is someone out front laying it down we know. A star, I suppose, is just someone who has no qualms about letting us know what it is all about. They put everything into whatever they are doing and it comes across. It comes across. You want to be there with them. On that stage, in that studio, next to them.
Kiki Dee does that when she sings. To me, anyway.
Every time she sings a song she makes it work. There are accomplished artists about who would trade a lot for the depth and sincerity that Kiki finds in everything she does. An emotion exists within her that must make a songwriter go to bed with a pen in his hand. As to whether it is a good thing or not to have a record in the charts? There is a question that has been argued, and will be argued for as long as they exist. No one knows the answer really. The top twenty kills some singers and saves others. But it makes no one. It will certainly never be responsible for shaping the career and future of Kiki Dee. For the charts leave alone the most important item in the book. Talent. And that is what Kiki is about.
How can any booker for any show listen to her sing a number like “Patterns” and not want to get her name at the bottom of a contract immediately defeats me.
Hang on to this album. For in about five years Kiki Dee is going to be one of the most exciting singers this country has ever produced, then this record will be a shared memory – yours and hers, and you will have been in at the beginning. Yes, Kiki Dee is a star. About to move. (written by Simon Dee, taken from the original liner notes)
Listen to this beautiful voice !
Down at the Old Bull and Bush, 1967
Kiki Dee (vocals9
a bunch of unknown studio musicians
01. Excuse Me (Addrissi/Morris) 2.11
02. Sunshine (Jessel) 2.00
03. Patterns (Catana/Cooper) 2.38
04. With A Kiss (Powers/Fischer) 3.02
05. When We Get There (Anka) 2.40
06. Why Don’t I Run Away From You (Berns/Shapiro/Bernstein) 2.39
07. I (Knight/Brown) 2.24
08. We Got Everything Going For Us (Springer/Levine) 2.22
09. I Dig You Baby (Ball/Ellison/Lambert) 2.29
10. Stop And Think (Stirling/Cumming) 2.25
11. Don’t Destroy Me (Levine/Tree) 2.22
12. I’m Going Out (The Same Way I Came In) (Crewe/Knight) 2.46
US version (called “Patterns”)