Kiki Dee had been making records since the Sixties, but her career didn’t really get going until Elton John signed her to his Rocket label.
Amoureuse wasn’t her biggest hit, but certainly, a turntable one, charting in 1973 and again three years later. Her powerful voice was equally comfortable in soul and rock grooves.
Despite the fact that Dee was the first British vocalist to sign with Motown, she had never reached the UK Top 10 until her duet with Elton John, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, topped both the British and American charts in 1976.
Born Pauline Matthews in Bradford, Yorkshire, on 6 March 1946, she won a talent show at the age of 12 while on holiday, and by 15 was singing twice a week with a local band.
Graduating to a bigger band in Leeds, she was spotted by a representative of Philips Records and was invited to London for an audition.
Songwriter Mitch Murray (author of hits like How Do You Do It? and I Like It) unexpectedly arrived at the audition and in a matter of days, he had written a song especially for Pauline, Early Night. He decided she should have a kooky image and came up with her new name of Kiki.
“Kinky boots were in at the time,” Kiki explained later. “Mitch suggested calling me Kinky Dee” – which she flatly refused. “We shortened this to Kiki Dee, and soon after my friends started calling me Keek”.
Early Night was released in May 1963 but made no impact at all on the charts. Neither did several other Kiki Dee discs released as follow-ups by Fontana in quick succession.
Signing up with manager Vic Billings (who also managed Dusty Springfield), Kiki began appearing regularly on TV shows and gigs in cabaret, and in 1965 she achieved her first international success by coming second in Italy’s San Remo Song Festival with Aspetta Domani (Wait For Tomorrow).
Late in 1968, Fontana released their only Kiki Dee album, I’m Kiki Dee. It was a compilation of A and B sides from her singles and sold respectably.
It was also to bring about her breakthrough signing with Motown.
She travelled to Detroit and recorded the Great Expectations album, but the Motown relationship was to prove short-lived and unsuccessful. It seems most soul devotees took one look at her white skin, saw red and avoided the black wax she produced.