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Band of the Week: Petula Clark 

MEET THE BAND: Petula Clark (vocals)

NOT A NORMAL CHILDHOOD: Born in England in the 1930s, Petula Clark originally sang in her church choir. "The first time I sung in front of an audience was in front of a congregation in Wales," says the 85-year-old singer. "I had never sung in front of an audience. It was a great honor to do a solo." Then, during World War II, the actress and singer entertained the troops. "We're talking about a very different time," she explains. "We had the war and they were dropping bombs on us. We would arrive at the camp. We never knew where we were. We would do our show and go home. We loved it. It was a very strange kind of life, I suppose. I don't really know what a normal childhood is."

A BIG BREAKTHROUGH: Clark recorded a number of hits throughout the '50s and would go on to release her signature song, the orchestral pop tune "Downtown," in 1965. Producer and collaborator Tony Hatch played her a working version of the tune that she liked. After she recorded it, she didn't have any sense that it would become a smash hit. "Tony simply came to Paris to visit me and talk about the next French session," says Clark. "He was writing this song. He said it had a title, but it wasn't done yet. He played it for me on piano. I really liked it, but even when we made it and recorded it, we only knew we had a very good record, but we had no idea it would become as big of a hit as it became."

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Clark's current tour across the States, which includes a show at the Kent Stage, represents her first-ever extensive U.S. tour. "It sounds strange," she admits. "When I first came over here, I had this huge career going for me in Europe, and I had two small children. I couldn't do everything, so a tour was out of the question. I did concerts here and there, and I did Vegas and stuff like that, but it's been great to finally tour the States. It's been really fun so far."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HER: "Living for Today," the moody title track from her latest album, finds her speaking as much as singing. "All that really matters is from now," she sings prior to a shimmering guitar solo. "I think the song came to me on a journey," she says when asked what inspired the tune. "I co-wrote it with my musical director. We recorded it in his living room. It was one of those deals. We were just having fun with it. I performed it on stage and people immediately loved it. I thought that was good. I don't like to get too involved with politics in general. It's more about making the most of every day." The lush "Rainbow" represents her first collaboration with Hatch in years, and Clark capably covers Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance," Peggy Lee's "Fever" and the Beatles' "Blackbird."

WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HER: petulaclark.net.

WHERE YOU CAN SEE HER: Petula Clark performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15, at the Kent Stage.

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