Lita Roza – Britain’s first chart-topping female singer – dies at 82

 

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Lita Roza – the first female British singer to score a No 1 record in the UK pop charts – died on August 14, 2008, at the age of 82.

 

The groundbreaking female singer topped the British hit parade in March 1953 with her cover version of Patti Page’s US hit ‘(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window?’.

 

But the Liverpool-born singer apparently hated the children’s novelty song that made her a household name – and refused to sing it on television or on stage.

 

I didn’t like or want to record that song but my agent managed to persuade me,” she said in a 2004 interview. “I sang it once – just one take – and vowed I would never sing it again. It just wasn’t my style. I wanted to sing good songs.

 

Lita Roza was best known for her jazz ballad performances with the Ted Heath Band and was acclaimed by the New Musical Express and Melody Maker as the leading British songstress of the 1950s. Readers of both magazines consistently voted her ‘Top British Female Singer’ and ‘Top Girl Singer in a Dance Band’ between 1951 and 1955.

 

She was born Lillian Patricia Lita Roza on March 14, 1926 – the eldest of seven children. She owed her sultry looks to her Spanish father, a marine engineer who played piano and accordion in Liverpool nightclubs. Her English mother was a dancer.

 

By the time she was 15 in 1941, Lita was touring as a dancer herself – in a wartime revue with Liverpool comedian Ted Ray. A year later she became a vocalist with the Harry Roy Orchestra and moved to London, where she also worked with other bandleaders of the era such as Edmundo Ros.

 

Her biggest break came in 1950 when she became the lead female vocalist with the Ted Heath Band, performing alongside singers Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lotis. Many fans consider her years with the Heath band to be the most productive of her career.

 

She left the band in 1954 and joined Decca Records as a solo artist – a move which made her a major star on both sides of the Atlantic. She even topped the bill at the London Palladium in 1954.

 

But the arrival of rock ’n’ roll in the late 1950s meant her style of melancholy jazz ballads eventually went out of fashion. By the early 1960s, a new generation of female Liverpool singers, such as Cilla Black, were topping the charts.

 

Her final public performance was on BBC Radio Merseyside in November 2002.

 

Sir Elton John summed up the feelings of many of her longstanding fans when he recently observed: “We just don’t make singers like Lita Roza any more.”

 

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One Response to “Lita Roza – Britain’s first chart-topping female singer – dies at 82”

  1. Paulina Says:

    Useful write up, you regularly write the most useful topics & Lita Roza is no exception!

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