Lulu: ‘I sold my soul to become Lulu – but now I finally know who I am’

Plenty, it turns out, as we natter for more than an hour until she realises she’s late for a meeting and dashes out in a panic! And she’s back with a bang… a Boom Bang-a-Bang as it turns out. Yes, at 70 she looks amazing, tiny and yet somehow larger than life, but don’t ask her about her hair or health, “I’ve blathered on about it for 30 years, look it up.” 

She constantly cackles with laughter and crackles with the energy of a woman half her age. 

It’s infectious. 

Yes, she was married to Maurice Gibb and John Frieda. 

She topped the US charts in 1967 with To Sir With Love from the Sidney Poitier film, in which she also starred, and won the 1969 Eurovision with Boom Bang-a-Bang. 

But her glories don’t all lie in the past. 

Straight after a huge tour with Take That (“such sweet boys, our connection is beautiful”), Lulu is on her own personal voyage across the UK, built around the first retrospective of her life and career. 

“I shouldn’t say this, but I wanted to call the tour, Lulu: Old AF,” she grins, “but we settled for ‘On Fire’. I want to light a fire under everything. I’ve never told my whole story, we’ll have old photos, videos. It’s time to own it all, no apologies. 

“A lot of my career I was told what to do to get a hit, although my tastes were always more badass, but I’m also doing Boom Bang-a-Bang for the first time in 30 years. 

“I was always afraid or anxious when I was younger, I didn’t fit in at school and I was supporting my family at home – music was the one thing I was confident about. 

“That was how I could communicate. That’s how I still connect. But now I finally know who I am.” 

It isn’t just a case of who is Lulu, but what is Lulu? 

The word actually means “the most extreme example of a type of person”, good or bad. 

Her manager Marion Massey discovered her at 14. A year later in 1964 there’s a video of Lulu singing Shout and being interviewed on Ready Steady Go. She still sounds broadly Glaswegian, clearly nervous but brashly cloaked in the streets of working-class Dennistoun. 

“I was rough then,” Lulu says, “all hard edges. My manager says I was the first punk. 

“She picked my name. It couldn’t just be Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, everyone was the Beatles, the Stones. She said, ‘You’re a right lulu of a kid’. It stuck.” 

Fast forward to a TV interview in 1967 and she’s a prim and proper young lady with rounder vowels and a little less spirit, packaged for entertainment shows by BBC legend Bill Cotton. Marie has disappeared. 

Teenage years are when people start to find themselves but Lulu declares: “I didn’t find myself at all. I did This Is Your Life when I was 19, which is ridiculous. 

“I did everything too quickly. Looking back, it’s hard not to feel I sold my soul, but I can see how it took me to a broader audience and allowed me a longer career.” 

She only officially changed her name a few years ago: “I think I became Lulu but then Lulu finally became more me. 

“James Brown told me we come from the same muddy pond. 

“He didn’t mean our tough backgrounds, he meant that love for music, right in our souls. That’s who we really are.” 

Lulu’s childhood has been dug over many times before. 

A heavy-drinking father and distant mother left her to care for her three younger siblings even before fame allowed her to financially provide, too. 

An appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? at her son Jordan Frieda’s behest revealed her mother’s own demons. 

“I learned a lot about why she was the way she was, which impacted everything at home. I carried all that around for so long. 

“Now it’s simple. I understand it was my destiny to have my son and grandchildren, to marry Maurice and John. 

“But it’s all about the music. I know none of this is an accident. I know I am a channel for the music. “I don’t think I’m **** hot, but I know I was given a gift. I know now I could have used it more, in different ways but I don’t linger on the negative. This is what I’ve got to give. 

“I didn’t finish school, but I have an inquiring mind. I’ve done a lot of hard work on myself. 

“I’ve studied Kashmir Shaivism, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Mahabharata, all the Eastern philosophies. I’ve learned to feel comfortable in my skin.” 

Lulu also has growing confidence in her own songwriting. 

Few know she wrote the 1993 Tina Turner hit I Don’t Wanna Fight with her songwriter brother, Billy Lawrie. 

“I’d been married to a Gibb. As songwriters, it doesn’t get any better. My brother said, ‘You mean all those years sitting there and you didnae pick anything up?’ And that’s how we wrote for Tina. 

“It was the story of breaking up with John, so it was very personal and raw to me. 

“To last in this business you make sacrifices but they taught me things. You could say ‘two failed marriages’ and it felt like that at the time. I felt like I would die over the second one to John. 

“But now I embrace how long they lasted and I know I picked two cool guys. I

Lulu…one little word that’s become an Ab Fab punchline overshadowed by a hit from half a century ago. 

Frankly, haven’t we seen and heard it all before and what does she still have to ‘Shout’ about? 

Plenty, it turns out, as we natter for more than an hour until she realises she’s late for a meeting and dashes out in a panic! 

And she’s back with a bang… a Boom Bang-a-Bang as it turns out. 

Yes, at 70 she looks amazing, tiny and yet somehow larger than life, but don’t ask her about her hair or health, “I’ve blathered on about it for 30 years, look it up.” 

She constantly cackles with laughter and crackles with the energy of a woman half her age. 

It’s infectious. 

Yes, she was married to Maurice Gibb and John Frieda. 

She topped the US charts in 1967 with To Sir With Love from the Sidney Poitier film, in which she also starred, and won the 1969 Eurovision with Boom Bang-a-Bang. 

But her glories don’t all lie in the past. 

Straight after a huge tour with Take That (“such sweet boys, our connection is beautiful”), Lulu is on her own personal voyage across the UK, built around the first retrospective of her life and career. 

“I shouldn’t say this, but I wanted to call the tour, Lulu: Old AF,” she grins, “but we settled for ‘On Fire’. I want to light a fire under everything. I’ve never told my whole story, we’ll have old photos, videos. It’s time to own it all, no apologies. 

“A lot of my career I was told what to do to get a hit, although my tastes were always more badass, but I’m also doing Boom Bang-a-Bang for the first time in 30 years. 

“I was always afraid or anxious when I was younger, I didn’t fit in at school and I was supporting my family at home – music was the one thing I was confident about. 

“That was how I could communicate. That’s how I still connect. But now I finally know who I am.” 

It isn’t just a case of who is Lulu, but what is Lulu? 

The word actually means “the most extreme example of a type of person”, good or bad. 

Her manager Marion Massey discovered her at 14. A year later in 1964 there’s a video of Lulu singing Shout and being interviewed on Ready Steady Go. She still sounds broadly Glaswegian, clearly nervous but brashly cloaked in the streets of working-class Dennistoun. 

“I was rough then,” Lulu says, “all hard edges. My manager says I was the first punk. 

“She picked my name. It couldn’t just be Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, everyone was the Beatles, the Stones. She said, ‘You’re a right lulu of a kid’. It stuck.” 

Fast forward to a TV interview in 1967 and she’s a prim and proper young lady with rounder vowels and a little less spirit, packaged for entertainment shows by BBC legend Bill Cotton. Marie has disappeared. 

Teenage years are when people start to find themselves but Lulu declares: “I didn’t find myself at all. I did This Is Your Life when I was 19, which is ridiculous. 

“I did everything too quickly. Looking back, it’s hard not to feel I sold my soul, but I can see how it took me to a broader audience and allowed me a longer career.” 

She only officially changed her name a few years ago: “I think I became Lulu but then Lulu finally became more me. 

“James Brown told me we come from the same muddy pond. 

“He didn’t mean our tough backgrounds, he meant that love for music, right in our souls. That’s who we really are.” 

Lulu’s childhood has been dug over many times before. 

A heavy-drinking father and distant mother left her to care for her three younger siblings even before fame allowed her to financially provide, too. 

An appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? at her son Jordan Frieda’s behest revealed her mother’s own demons. 

“I learned a lot about why she was the way she was, which impacted everything at home. I carried all that around for so long. 

“Now it’s simple. I understand it was my destiny to have my son and grandchildren, to marry Maurice and John. 

“But it’s all about the music. I know none of this is an accident. I know I am a channel for the music. “I don’t think I’m **** hot, but I know I was given a gift. I know now I could have used it more, in different ways but I don’t linger on the negative. This is what I’ve got to give. 

“I didn’t finish school, but I have an inquiring mind. I’ve done a lot of hard work on myself. 

“I’ve studied Kashmir Shaivism, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Mahabharata, all the Eastern philosophies. I’ve learned to feel comfortable in my skin.” 

Lulu also has growing confidence in her own songwriting. 

Few know she wrote the 1993 Tina Turner hit I Don’t Wanna Fight with her songwriter brother, Billy Lawrie. 

“I’d been married to a Gibb. As songwriters, it doesn’t get any better. My brother said, ‘You mean all those years sitting there and you didnae pick anything up?’ And that’s how we wrote for Tina. 

“It was the story of breaking up with John, so it was very personal and raw to me. 

“To last in this business you make sacrifices but they taught me things. You could say ‘two failed marriages’ and it felt like that at the time. I felt like I would die over the second one to John. 

“But now I embrace how long they lasted and I know I picked two cool guys. I should have moved to America when I was younger. 

“My career might have been so different. I worked with David Bowie and it was supposed to lead to more, but I have to let that go. I’ve never been able to follow Shout. Never. 

“But I can walk into a room anywhere, any time over the last 50 years and people will join in. That’s incredible. 

“Now I’m 70, I just feel excited. People say it’s not normal, but I’m well embracing it. In any business, including life, you can’t get stuck. 

“I love what I do and I still have so much more to do. Sidney Poitier told me ‘Lulu, you’re gonna live for ever,’ and I’m gonna prove him right. I’m not slowing down, I’m not retiring. I keep marching forward.” 

She is ready to share her life with the world – the good, the bad and the lulu. 

 Lulu (luluofficial.com) is at Oxford New Theatre tonight and touring until November 2 

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