Born in Bradford, Yorkshire, under her stage name of Kiki Dee, she began her incredible musical journey by singing with local dance bands, and after being spotted by a record company scout in 1963, Kiki was signed as a solo artist to Fontana Records.
In 1963 she released her first single “Early Night”, and recorded her debut album “I’m Kiki Dee”, which included a series of Phil Spector style tracks and covers including “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, Nancy Wilson’s “How Glad I Am” and her 1965 release “Why Don’t I Run Away From You”, became an airplay hit on both Radio London and Radio Caroline. Kiki’s 1968 single “On a Magic Carpet Ride” has remained a much sought-after classic on the Northern Soul circuit.
In 1970 Kiki became the first British artist to be signed by Tamla Motown, releasing an album on the label in the same year. After signing to Elton John’s Rocket Records label in the early 1970s, Kiki scored her first UK Top 20 hit in 1973 with her version of the Véronique Sanson song “Amoureuse”. An English lyric by Gary Osborne lead to a lifelong friendship with the lyricist. In the same year, Kiki could be heard singing backing vocals on Elton John’s global smash album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. During this period Kiki recorded two albums produced by Elton and started song writing for the first time.
1974 saw her riding high on both the UK and US charts with “I’ve Got the Music in Me”, and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” topped the UK chart for six weeks in mid 1976. The song was intended as an affectionate pastiche of the Tamla Motown style, notably the various duets recorded by Marvin Gaye and singers such as Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston.
“Star” from the album Perfect Timing gave Kiki another Top 20 hit, and later became the theme music to the BBC TV programme Opportunity Knocks . 1984 saw her first venture into musical theatre with an American show called Pumpboys and Dinettes.
Kiki performed at the historic Live Aid concert in 1985 to over 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium, reprising “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Elton and performing backing vocals on the other songs in his set.
In 1987 she took the lead in Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers, touring the UK for several months before the show moved to London’s West End in 1988. Kiki received an Olivier Award nomination in 1989 in the Best Actress in a Musical category for her performance.
Kiki once again found herself in the charts with Elton John in 1993 when their version of the Cole Porter song “True Love” reached No.2 on the UK chart.
1994 saw Kiki joining forces with songwriter, producer and guitarist Carmelo Luggeri, who had worked with Bill Wyman, Julian Lennon, Andy Williams, Paul Rodgers, Ray Cooper and Ralph McTell. Carmelo produced some bonus tracks for “The Very Best of Kiki Dee” album, and, having hit it off musically, they took on a new musical direction together, playing acoustic concerts, starting with an appearance at The Royal Albert Hall for World AIDS Day in December 1994.
Over the last 25 years, Kiki and Carmelo have successfully toured extensively with their unique acoustic-based show. Their first release in 1995 was the live album “Almost Naked”, which was recorded whilst on tour with violinist Vanessa-Mae. “It was a shock at first to perform just the two of us”, said Kiki. “I remember bursting into tears after our first tour date but it soon felt great to have the freedom of working with just a voice and guitar and writing songs while on the road”.
In 1998 they released their most adventurous album so far, “Where Rivers Meet”, which gave them total freedom to be creative and work with musicians from India and the UK. They began experimenting with Asian instruments and multi-layered sound textures resulting in a ground-breaking and haunting album that challenged and stretched their talents fully.
The follow up, “The Walk Of Faith”, released in 2005, saw them continuing this trend and developing their song writing further still …. their unique arrangement of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill is still a firm favourite with fans to this day.
2012 saw the duo still pushing boundaries and moving forward. The title track of their album “A Place Where I Can Go” was about the joy of music, and as the lyric says: “In the Middle of this sound is a place where I can go”….All the songs were written by Kiki and Carmelo, with the exception of a duet with Eddi Reader entitled “Horses”, which was penned by a talented young Canadian duo called Dala.
Their second live album “So…Here We Are..vol 1” was released in response to audiences asking if certain songs they’d heard that night had been recorded. These included “How Do You Stop” by Joni Mitchell, ”Let It Be Me” by the Everly Brothers and ”Dance Me To The End Of Love” by Leonard Cohen. It has proved popular with their fans as a memento of their live interpretations today as their sound has progressed and broadened from pin drop silence to rock mayhem!