David Essex Biography

David Albert Cook, 23 July 1947, Plaistow, London, England. Originally a drummer in the semi-professional Everons, Essex subsequently turned to singing during the mid-60s, and recorded a series of unsuccessful singles for a variety of labels. On the advice of his influential manager, Derek Bowman, he switched to acting and after a series of minor roles gained his big break upon winning the lead part in the stage musical Godspell. This was followed by the authentic 50s-inspired film That’ll Be The Day and its sequel Stardust. The former reactivated Essex’s recording career and the song he composed for the film, ‘Rock On’, was a transatlantic Top 10 hit in 1973. It was in Britain, however, that Essex enjoyed several years as a pin-up teen-idol. During the mid-70s, he registered two UK number 1s, ‘Gonna Make You A Star’ and ‘Hold Me Close’, plus the Top 10 hits ‘Lamplight’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘Rollin’ Stone’. After parting with producer Jeff Wayne, Essex continued to chart, though with noticeably diminishing returns. As his teen appeal waned, his serious acting commitments increased, most notably with the role of Che Guevara in Evita. The musical also provided another Top 5 hit with 1978’s acerbic ‘Oh, What A Circus’. His lead part in 1980’s Silver Dream Racer resulted in a UK Top 5 hit of the same title. Thereafter, Essex took on a straight non-singing part in Childe Byron. The 1982 Christmas hit, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (number 2), kept his chart career alive, as did the equally successful ‘Tahiti’. The latter anticipated one of his biggest projects to date, an elaborate musical, Mutiny! (based on Mutiny On The Bounty).

In 1993, after neglecting his showbusiness career while he spent two and a half years in the African region as an ambassador for Voluntary Service Overseas, Essex embarked on a UK concert tour, and issued Cover Shot, a collection of mostly 60s songs. In the same year he played the part of Tony Lumpkin in Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy, She Stoops To Conquer, in London’s West End. In 1994 he continued to tour, and released a new album produced by Jeff Wayne. It included a duet with Catherine Zeta Jones on ‘True Love Ways’, and the VSO-influenced ‘Africa’, an old Toto number. Despite pursuing two careers, Essex has managed to achieve consistent success on record, in films and stage. He was awarded an OBE in the 1999 New Year Honours list.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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