Barbara Windsor's Ladies Of Song


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Barbara Windsor celebrates the life and career of Alma Cogan, The Girl With The Laugh In Her Voice.

Alma Cogan was born on May 19th, 1932 and died on October 26th, 1966 at the tragically young age of 34 years old.

Alma made her first recording, To Be Worthy Of You, in 1952 and went on to record a whole series of bright and breezy hits including: If I Had A Golden Umbrella, Bell Bottom Blues, Dreamboat, In The Middle Of The House, Sugartime and He Just Couldn't Resist her With her Pocket Transistor. Alma also recorded several memorable ballads including: When I fall In Love, As Time Goes By and If Love Were All amongst others. All these and more are featured in the programme, plus a real treat; The premier of a never released Alma Cogan recording, recently discovered by Alma's sister, Sandra Caron, on the original acetate that had lain hidden away in a cupboard for 45 years!

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Barbara Windsor profiles Kathy Kirby, a successful singing star of the 1960s whose hit singles included Secret Love.

With her blonde hair, hourglass figure, trademark glossy lips and powerful voice, Kathy became one of the highest paid artists on British television, performing in the Eurovision Song Contest and achieving international stardom.

Barbara reveals the story behind Kathy's rise to stardom and the reasons behind her rapid decline. Many of the stars who worked with Kathy over the years, including Vince Hill, Frank Ifield and Mark Wynter, help to explain how the girl who had it all ended up with almost nothing.

Central to Kathy's success - and to her downfall - was the bandleader Bert Ambrose who became her mentor, manager and lover. He guided Kathy to the top but then, with new competition from the beat groups, started to make poor career decisions for her.

He failed to renew her lucrative BBC television contract, refused to let her record You're My World (which became a big hit for Cilla Black), and encouraged her to perform old fashioned ballads and Music Hall numbers.

When he died Kathy was bereft. She became emotionally unstable and professionally unreliable. A string of managers were unable to control her and her career went rapidly off the rails. By the time of her death in May 2011, Kathy had been declared bankrupt and was a virtual recluse.

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Barbara Windsor celebrates the life and career of Dorothy Squires, who died on 14 April 1998 at the age of 83.

Born Edna May Squires in 1915, her story began not in a house or a hospital, but a showman's wagon. After jobs in Woolworth's and a tinplate factory, Dorothy headed to London where she soon got established in the night club scene.

When Dorothy heard that bandleader Billy Reid was looking for a singer for his band, she auditioned, got the job and together they toured all over the country. Later Billy and Dorothy went into variety as a duo billed as "The Composer and the Voice".

It was a tempestuous partnership, but both sides lived up to their billing: Dorothy had a dramatic and powerful voice, and Billy was a resourceful composer of both words and music. They lived together for a dozen years, and it was widely assumed that they were husband and wife, but they never married.

It was with actor Roger Moore that romance developed and, after meeting at a party, they married in 1953. When the couple settled in California, Dorothy was an established songwriter who had performed in America with Elvis and Frank Sinatra in the audience. She was offered a number of choice engagements but turned them down, seemingly more pre-occupied with Roger's career and their domestic life.

When the couple parted in 1961, Dorothy was particularly bitter about the break-up and she wouldn't allow Roger a divorce until 1969. By this time, Dorothy had a reputation as a difficult person but she felt that she was being sidelined by the major TV networks. To prove her point, in December 1970, Dorothy staged a comeback concert at the London Palladium, which she booked with her own money. The box office sold out in just one morning.

In 1971 Dorothy was caught up in the "payola" scandal when the News of the World accused her, among others, of offering bribes to a BBC producer, in hopes of getting songs played. After a two year Scotland Yard investigation, Dorothy was acquitted, sued the newspaper and was awarded £30,000 damages.

With little work coming in and large outgoings (including legal expenses, a mansion in Bray and a string of racehorses) Dorothy's fortune evaporated. The battering of Dot's morale came to a climax in 1986, when she was declared bankrupt and categorized by the courts as a "vexatious litigant".

Evicted from her home, Dorothy stayed with friends and in hotels until Esme Coles, a fan from South Wales, heard of her plight and gave Dorothy a house in the Rhondda, where she would end her days.

Contributors include Lionel Blair, Bobby Crush, Sir Roger Moore, Dorothy's niece Emily Squires, and singer Rosemary Squires. The programme features recordings from across her career including Say It with Flowers, Till, The Gypsy, and My Way.