Matt Monro Biography

Terry Parsons, 1 December 1930, London, England, d. 7 February 1985, Ealing, London, England. This velvet-voiced balladeer first played in bands under the pseudonym Al Jordan before adopting the name Monro, allegedly borrowed from Winifred Atwell’s father. Between stints as a bus driver and singer on the UK Camay soap commercial, he recorded for a number of labels, but his choice of material was generally too predictable. His interpretation of ‘Garden Of Eden’, for example, had to compete with four other versions by hit artists Frankie Vaughan, Gary Miller, Dick James and Joe Valino. Monro’s luck changed when producer George Martin asked him to contribute a pseudo- Frank Sinatra version of ‘You Keep Me Swingin’’ to a Peter Sellers comedy album. This led to a contract with Parlophone Records and a Top 3 hit with ‘Portrait Of My Love’ (1960).

For the next five years, Monro was a regular chart entrant with his classic up-tempo version of ‘My Kind Of Girl’ (UK number 5/US number 18, 1961), along with ballads such ‘Why Not Now/Can This Be Love’, ‘Gonna Build A Mountain’, ‘Softly, As I Leave You’, and ‘When Love Comes Along’. His excellent interpretation of Lionel Bart’s James Bond movie theme ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘Born Free’ and the emotive ‘Walk Away’ (UK number 4/US number 23, 1964) proved particularly successful. The speedy release of a slick adaptation of the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ (UK number 8, 1965) underlined the sagacity of covering a song before your competitors. His 1962 album of Hoagy Carmichael songs, with arrangements by his regular musical director Johnny Spence, was right out of the top drawer. A move to the USA in 1965 brought a decline in Monro’s chart fortunes in the UK, but he sustained his career as an in-demand nightclub performer. The enduring commercial quality of his voice was recognized by Capitol Records with the Christmas release and television promotion of the compilation album, Heartbreakers, in 1980. Ill health dogged the singer in the early 80s, and he died from cancer in 1985. Ten years later, his son Matt Jnr., who had carved out a career for himself as a golf professional, ‘duetted’ with his father on an album of some of Matt Snr.’s favourite songs. Since his death, the tag that he was merely a Sinatra copyist has completely reversed, especially in America. Monro’s appeal continues and the rich patina of his voice is now seen as original rather than derivative.

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

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