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Petula Clark: My love-in with America

By Petula Clark
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1940 GMT (0340 HKT)
The Beatles exploded on the American scene, kicking off the British Invasion. Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney arrive at JFK airport to an overwhelming, screaming reception to start their U.S. tour in 1964. The Beatles exploded on the American scene, kicking off the British Invasion. Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney arrive at JFK airport to an overwhelming, screaming reception to start their U.S. tour in 1964.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Petula Clark was living in Paris with her family and had a successful European career
  • When she got the song "Downtown," she knew she wanted to record it
  • That '60s song propelled her to fame in the United States, where it became No. 1
  • Other hits followed; she calls American audiences the most generous in the world

Editor's note: Petula Clark is an award-winning British singer, a stage and film actress and a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame. Part of the British Invasion, she has had 15 Top 40 hits in the United States, two of them at No. 1.

(CNN) -- My participation in the British Invasion came as a total surprise to me.

I am indeed British, with an English dad and a Welsh mum. In the mid-1960s, having married a Frenchman, I was living in Paris with two small children and enjoying a highly successful career in Europe, singing in French and other languages.

Petula Clark
Petula Clark

But despite all that, when Tony Hatch, also a Brit, presented me with a song called "Downtown," I knew I wanted to record it. So we went into the studio in London and came out with a hit. It was rapidly picked up by Warner Brothers in the United States, and without any promotion from me, took off to the prized No. 1 spot.

And so I was propelled into this amazing and exciting "love in" with America. Of course, it changed my life. Suddenly, I was juggling two careers and a family.

It was exhilarating, too. I loved performing to American audiences, and I still do. They are the most generous in the world.

I was spending more and more time in the States, working with some of the best American musicians and certainly listening to the great American bands of the day: The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas and more. It was wonderful to feel I was in some way part all that was happening at that iconic moment.

The spearhead of the "Invasion" was of course the Beatles.

They opened the floodgates, and the world became aware of British talent almost overnight. Americans seemed to embrace us Brits with something close to a passion. How could we resist?

Of course "Downtown" was only the beginning.

Are these songs British or American?
Ringo Starr and the British Invasion

There was "I Know a Place," "Don't Sleep in the Subway," "Colour My World," "Days" and more. Tony Hatch went on to write a dozen more hits for me. These songs have survived the '60s, and I still sing them today with much affection.

Those days were pretty hectic. I seemed to be constantly bouncing around between the United States and Europe and was jet-lagged most of the time!

As for "the scene" in the Sixties, I didn't get too involved in it. Of course, there were the inevitable parties and general madness, but I could take it or leave it. I mostly left it. Probably that I was married with a young family kept me on an even keel.

For me, the buzz was and still is all about the music and being around people who feel the same way.

The British Invasion came and went, but left behind a body of music that lives on today. For those of us who were there, how could we ever forget it?

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