Alma Cogan The girl with the giggle in her voice. Alma, who died 50 years ago, was the singing sensation overtaken by rock 'n' roll. But did she have a fling with John Lennon?
She was the highest paid British female entertainer of her time and the nation's first woman singer to have her own television series. She was also a household name across Europe and when she died, the story made front-page news as far afield as Australia and even Japan. Yet the chances are that if you're under a certain age you may never of heard of Alma Cogan. She died half a century ago next week at the tragically young age of 34 from ovarian cancer and was mourned around the world, from stars to countless ordinary fans. John Lennon was said to be "inconsolable" So who was Alma Cogan -- "the girl with the giggle in her voice" as the press dubbed her?. And how did she rise from humble beginnings to counting Sammy Davis Jr. among her closest friends and having Cary Grant propose to her?. The Beatles producer Sir George Martin, who died earlier this year, was in no doubt about her star quality. "Alma was the singing equivalent of Elizabeth Taylor in the film world," he once said. "When the Beatle first started they knew perfectly well she was the tops." Petula Clark, now 83, says: "I loved Alma. We were the same age and friends -- though people thought we were rivals. She was a very good singer who made great records. When I heard she had died i went for a walk in the woods and wept. Cogan was born in Golders Green, London, into a Jewish family. "She must have been the first Jewish star," reckons Maureen Lipman, a life-long admirer. "It was just unheard of for one of us to do that well." Today Cogan is survived by her younger sister Sandra, an actress. She recalls Alma singing at tea dances as a child and being recommended by no less than Vera Lynn for a variety of shows in Brighton when she was only 14. Dame Vera, 99, "Alma was a completely different personality to myself. She was very outgoing and jolly. Once the 1950.s came in the music changed. There were very few songs at that time I found I could sing but as far as Alma was concerned there were loads of songs that suited her." Cogan's first recoding "To Be Worthy Of You" established her on radio, where she was soon in shows such as The Glums and Take It From Here, Which was written by Denis Norden. "In those days stars were made from Radio," says Norden, 94. "There are no television stars today who were as big as radio stars were then. We were getting audiences of 20-25 million. We discovered Alma for Take It From Here but she would have burst forth anyway. Her recording career took off when Bell Bottom Blues sold more than 100,000 copies. She was to have 18 hit records in the UK alone, including a No.1 with Dreamboat. Her hits included more novelty songs such as Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo and Just Couldn't Resist Her With Her Pocket Transistor. Dame Vera recalls: "You couldn't mistake her voice because of this sort of light-hearted giggle that she had. You new immediately it was Alma Cogan. Her BBC TV show began in 1957 and in the early 1960s ATV made her the country's highest-paid female star. She frequently guest starred on shows hosted by other big names of the time from Benny Hill to Cliff Richard. No such appearances was complete without on of Cogan's signature glamorous outfits.
back to joke index