I could go several directions in this post. One possibility is to give you the plot of the movie, but I've read a couple of versions and find them all pretty much incomprehensible. Another is to take you line by line through the lyrics of the song, but even my obsessive English-teacher tendencies don't stretch that far. So we're left with a third subject, actually the most intriguing: Shirley Bassey herself. Her life in and of itself could be made into a very interesting film.
Bassey was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1937. (You may remember that this city was the site of the historic rugby match that featured the singing of “Land of My Fathers” that made that piece into the unofficial national anthem of Wales.) Her father, Henry Bassey,
What is clear is that Bassey showed her vocal talents early but they weren't always appreciated. She said, “Everyone told me to shut up. Even in the school choir the teacher kept telling me to back off till I was singing in the corridor!” (Wikipedia) She signed her first performance contract in 1953 at the age of 16. Everyone associates her with the “Goldfinger” theme, but she didn't break out with that until 1965—yet another of those overnight successes that took years. While that song gave her her first US Top 40 hit, she had been producing hits in the UK for years, and she continued to do so for decades after that. I'm always intrigued by the fact that a performer's personal life typically has nothing to do with what makes him or her famous. We think we know something about the person when really we've just seen the bits and pieces that end up on stage, film or YouTube. If all you or I know about Bassey is that iconic performance with that distinctive voice, well, we don't know her at all. And she's still going strong, having sung the Goldfinger theme at the Academy Awards in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. Let's see . . . if my math, never my strong suit, is correct, she was 76 at the time. I have to say that she sounded fabulous.
Little sidenote here: We have a second Welsh pop performer's song featured on our program, Tom Jones' “Delilah.” Both he and Bassey have been given OBE's, so it's Sir Tom and Dame Shirley to us peons, please. But these two are tied together by more than a common nationality or honorific; they both recorded a theme song for another James Bond film, “Thunderball.” Bassey's was titled “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” after a nickname for Bond that had been coined by an Italian journalist. But the producers worried that a Bond theme song without the title of the film in its title wouldn't do, so they put in the eponymous one. Legend has it that Jones fainted in the recording studio at the end of the song; he said, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning." (also Wikipedia)
Although Bassey now lives in Monaco, she showed her loyalty to her home town in 1999 by singing the theme song of the Rugby World Cup, “World In Union,” at the Cardiff stadium--dressed in a Welsh flag. So I guess we're justified in including the song that made her famous in our concert. You go, Shirley!
Below are the two videos referenced above. The first, draped-in-the-Welsh-flag performance, is of very poor quality, but all of the other versions simply include the soundtrack without the video. It's worth seeing even under these conditions. The second video includes just the finale of "Goldfinger."