Matt Monro (born Terence Edward Parsons, 1 December 1930 – 7 February 1985) was an English singer. Known as "The Man with the Golden Voice", he performed internationally during his 30-year career. AllMusic has described Monro as "one of the most underrated pop vocalists of the '60s", who "possessed the easiest, most perfect baritone in the business".
|Birth name||Terence Edward Parsons|
|Born||1 December 1930|
Finsbury, London, England
|Died||7 February 1985 (aged 54)|
Kensington, London, England
His recordings include the UK top 10 hits "Portrait of My Love", "My Kind of Girl", "Softly As I Leave You", "Walk Away" and "Yesterday" (originally by the Beatles). He also recorded several film themes such as "From Russia with Love" for the eponymous James Bond film, "Born Free" for the eponymous film and "On Days Like These" for The Italian Job.
Life and early career edit
Monro was born Terence Edward Parsons on 1 December 1930 in Finsbury, northeast of the City of London, to Frederick and Alice Parsons. He had three brothers — Arthur, Reg and Harry — and a sister, Alice. He attended Duncombe School in Islington, and Elliott School, Putney.
Monro had a difficult childhood. His father died when he was three and after his mother became ill, he was fostered out for two years. Leaving school at 14, he tried a succession of jobs without remaining in any of them for very long, before National Service beckoned in 1948. Monro became a tank driving instructor in the British armed forces and was posted to Hong Kong. He had sung in public from an early age, for example at the Tufnell Park Palais, and in Hong Kong he took to entering local talent contests, winning several. In fact, he became a regular guest (and frequent winner) of Radio Rediffusion's Talent Time show in Hong Kong. He was invited by then-host Ray Cordeiro to perform in his own one-off show entitled Terry Parsons Sings, on the condition that he would bow out of future Talent Time episodes to make way for others. Agreeing to the deal, he performed his first on-air concert for Rediffusion on 27 June 1953.
Following his discharge from the Army after five years, he returned to London, to try to make a career out of singing. Initially he had little success and was obliged to take on a number of different jobs to supplement his meagre income from the occasional singing engagement. He also hung around the music publishers offices in Denmark Street and occasionally made demos of new songs for their ever-optimistic song-pluggers. Eventually, he became a bus driver for London Transport, driving Route 27 from Holloway (Garage code J) Bus Garage (now demolished: the present Holloway Garage (HT) is the former Holloway Trolleybus Depot).
In 1956, he made a demo record, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" which was heard by pianist Winifred Atwell, who was an important influence on his early career. She recommended him to her own recording company, Decca Records, who signed him. She became his mentor, providing him with his stage name, Matt Monro. Matt came from Matt White, a journalist friend; and Monro was Atwell's father's Christian name. His first record which was released in November 1956, was "Ev'rybody Falls in Love with Someone", a song which had just won the BBC Festival of Popular Songs. Monro gained some radio exposure on Radio Luxembourg and, starting on 2 January 1957, became a featured vocalist with the BBC-TV Show Band Parade show presented by Cyril Stapleton which ran until 28 June 1957. He also got a television spot on The Winifred Atwell Show in 1956.
In 1957, Monro released Blue and Sentimental, an album of standards. Despite the album's favourable reception, Monro languished among the young male singers trying to break through at the end of the 1950s, many of them emulating Frankie Vaughan by recording cover versions of American hits. Monro even recorded a version of Vaughan's "Garden of Eden" during this period. A short recording contract with Fontana Records followed.
By the end of the 1950s, Monro's mid-decade profile had declined, and he returned to relative obscurity. He and his wife Mickie lived from her wages as a song plugger and his royalties from a TV advertising jingle for Camay soap. In 1959, he recorded a country pastiche song, "Bound for Texas", for The Chaplin Revue, a feature-length compilation of Charlie Chaplin shorts. It would be the first of many Monro soundtrack themes.
International career edit
Prior to producing the Peter Sellers album Songs for Swingin' Sellers in 1959, EMI producer George Martin asked Monro to record "You Keep Me Swingin'", a satirical song to help the comedian imitate the song with a Frank Sinatra-type styling. When Sellers heard the recording he decided to use it to be the opening track on the record, rather than record his own version, which he realised he couldn't improve on himself. However, Sellers billed Monro as "Fred Flange", and though it was a demoralising experience at the time, the incident developed into a lifelong friendship with Martin, who subsequently asked Monro to begin recording with him for EMI's Parlophone record label. Their second single and Monro's highest UK chart success, "Portrait of My Love", written by Cyril Ornadel and Norman Newell (using the pseudonym "David West") and arranged/conducted by Johnnie Spence, reached number three on the UK Singles Chart.
By the following year, Monro had been named Top International Act by Billboard. In February 1961, the British music magazine NME reported that Monro had won ITV's A Song for Britain with "My Kind of Girl". His follow-up hits included that song, plus "Softly as I Leave You" (1962) and the title song from the James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963). For the latter, his vocals were not used in the opening titles, as became the standard for the series; they were heard on a radio during the film and over the final credits.
At the 1964 Eurovision Song Contest, singing "I Love the Little Things", Monro finished second behind Italy's 16-year-old Gigliola Cinquetti, his rendition being described an "excellent performance of the only English language song of the night". The Austrian entry "Warum nur warum?", performed by songwriter Udo Jürgens, caught Monro's ear, despite its sixth-place finish, and he recorded an English version titled "Walk Away", earning him another hit single in late 1964. The song had lyrics by Monro's manager and friend, Don Black, whom he had met during his Denmark Street days when Black was working for Toff Music. He also had a hit with the Beatles' "Yesterday" in 1965, the first cover version of the most recorded song, even predating the Beatles' own release.
The following year, Monro sang the Oscar-winning title song for the film Born Free, which became his signature tune. It was also his second collaboration with John Barry, following "From Russia with Love". Monro went on to record two further songs from Barry film scores: "Wednesday's Child" (from the film The Quiller Memorandum) and "This Way Mary" (from Mary, Queen of Scots). Both "Born Free" and "On Days Like These" (from the film The Italian Job) had lyrics by Don Black.
In the late 1960s, he recorded another Udo Jürgens song with the name "Was Ich Dir Sagen Will". It was adapted to English as "The Music Played". Monro recorded a Spanish version of the song with the adapted title of "Alguien Cantó". The Spanish version was a top sales hit (Superventas) in Spain in 1969. Additionally, Monro recorded an English version of Jürgens' 1966 Eurovision winner "Merci, Chérie", but it failed to chart when released as a UK single.
Monro reached the United States charts when "My Kind of Girl" (1961) and "Walk Away" (1964) hit the top 40. In 1966, following the death of Nat King Cole, EMI moved Monro from Parlophone to Capitol. The new recording contract necessitated a move to the United States. This would be the beginning of a trend towards LPs, and he now worked with American arrangers such as Sid Feller and Billy May on recording albums which included "This Is the Life", "The Late Late Show", "Invitation to the Movies" and "Invitation to Broadway". However, unlike "Born Free", his other Capitol singles in California were not particularly successful.
After relocating to California and recording several albums with American arrangers, Monro returned to the UK and stayed with George Martin. He later began to change labels within EMI to Columbia, where his final U.S. album Close to You was released in 1970. This LP contained "We're Gonna Change the World", a semi-satirical song originally used in a TV commercial for Kellogg's Cornflakes. It was not a hit in either the US or the UK but was nevertheless widely played, and became enduringly popular on BBC Radio 2. A re-recording in 1995, in which Monro's son duetted electronically with his late father, did however just scrape into the UK chart at No. 100.
Monro continued touring and recording until just before his death, releasing a single and promoting it throughout the UK and Australia in 1984. In one of his final appearances, Monro praised Boy George, observing the importance of quality recordings in all musical genres.
Monro was married twice:
- Iris Jordan, married 15 January 1955 — 1959 (divorced). They had one son, Mitchell Terence Parsons (1955 – 2003)
- Renata "Mickie" Schuller (19 July 1933, Berlin – 25 February 2010, Middx, UK), married 1959–1985 (his death).
They had a daughter, Michele (1959), and a son, Matt Monro Jnr (born Matthew Frederick Monro) (1964).
She had an earlier marriage:
(Giles – Schuller, Ealing, 1954)
Monro was a heavy smoker and battled alcoholism from the 1960s until 1981. He died from liver cancer on 7 February 1985 at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London, aged 54, leaving a widow, Mickie, and three children: Mitchell, Michele, and Matthew. Mitchell, a professional pilot, also died of cancer in 2003. Matt Monro was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. The ashes were removed by the family. A memorial service was also held in Harrow.
The 20th anniversary of Monro's death spotlighted the continuing interest in his music, with a top 10 tribute compilation CD (UK), a No. 1 concert DVD (UK), and a BBC TV documentary all appearing in 2005. A 2007 compilation CD entitled From Matt with Love reached the top 40 of the UK Albums Chart during its first week of release. His songs were featured on Friday Night Is Music Night on 8 October 2010.
In late 2005, Matt Monro Jr. toured the United Kingdom with a tribute concert commemorating the anniversary. Also, EMI re-released Matt Sings Monro, a 1995 duet album that combined his voice with the senior Monro's. Another posthumous Matt Monro duet, with Cliff Richard, appeared on Richard's duets CD, Two's Company, in 2007.
Monro never recorded a "live" concert album, preferring the technical purity of the recording studio and wanting his public performances to retain an element of uniqueness. However, in the past few years, commercially released concert albums have emerged following remastering of radio and television shows, private recordings he commissioned. These include a 1967 cabaret performance from his first tour of Australia; a 1967 BBC concert with Nelson Riddle; a 1966 arena concert before 24,000 people in Manila; and one of his final concerts, recorded on the last night of his fifteenth and final Australian tour in 1984.
His daughter Michele has written a biography, The Singer's Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro and has been instrumental, along with sound engineer Richard Moore, in releasing rare and unreleased material by Matt Monro in recent years.
Through the years, Monro's recordings have been featured in radio and television commercials. In July 2020, the Unilever brand Axe began airing an American TV campaign for its deodorant line that spoofed the restrictions on dating during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Monro's "Born Free" as the soundtrack theme.
In March 2020, Monro reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart with an album of performances with a quintet recorded in New York. These recordings, later overdubbed by Dave Cavenaugh in Hollywood, were released for the first time as Monro wanted them to be.
What would have been Monro's 90th birthday in December 2020, was celebrated by his family with the creation of an official YouTube page, and the four part audio documentary, The Boy from Shoreditch.
Most of Monro's recordings were produced or overseen by George Martin. Unlike his contemporaries, Monro recorded very few Tin Pan Alley standards during his career. (The exception was Matt Monro Sings Hoagy Carmichael, one of his most highly regarded albums.) Instead, he and Martin searched for material written by promising newcomers and commissioned English lyrics for dramatic melodies written by European composers.
Monro also covered many of the most popular stage and screen songs of the 1950s and 1960s. Over the years, his recordings featured arrangements by Sid Feller, Billy May, John Barry, Buddy Bregman, Kenny Clayton and Colin Keyes, and Martin himself. He also had a long and fruitful musical partnership with British arranger Johnnie Spence. Monro also teamed up with American star arrangers Nelson Riddle and Billy May and leading British bandleader Ted Heath, for concerts broadcast by the BBC.
In 1973, Monro released a vocal version of the popular Van der Valk TV-series theme titled "And You Smiled", with lyrics written by Melvyn Taggart. It was his final hit. In 1977, he recorded the Don Black penned, "If I Never Sing Another Song", which became a latter-day standard among his contemporaries, its lyrics referring to the "heyday" of fan mail, awards, and other trappings of celebrity that had faded for them.
In 1979, Monro recorded his final studio album, the third all-Spanish album produced by Leonardo Schultz and Gary Mason. Schultz and Mason hoped to capitalize on the success of the earlier hit song "Alguien Cantó", which Leonardo Schultz had adapted to Spanish. The album, entitled Un Toque De Distinción, was recorded in George Martin's Air London Studios, as well as in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. The arranger was Kenny Woodman, and it was engineered by Tom Greto. The album was eventually released in 1982. The album was a critical success, and was a hit in various Latin American countries. The song "Volveré Alguna Vez" from the album made it on to the singles chart; the song was subsequently sung by José Feliciano and became a hit.
Hit albums edit
|1965||I Have Dreamed||20||N/A|
|1966||This Is the Life!||25||N/A|
|1967||Invitation to the Movies||30||N/A|
|1982||Matt Monro – The Very Best of Matt Monro||—||Gold|
|2007||From Matt with Love||30||—|
|2020||Stranger in Paradise||8||—|
† Before 1973 the BPI did not have an album/single certified award scheme.
Hit singles edit
|1960||"Portrait of My Love"||3||—||—||—|
|1961||"My Kind of Girl"||5||18||6||29|
|"Why Not Now?" / "Can This Be Love"||24||92||—||93|
|"Gonna Build a Mountain"||44||—||—||—|
|1962||"Softly As I Leave You" / "Is There Anything I Can Do"||10||116||—||—|
|"When Love Comes Along"||46||—||—||—|
|"My Love and Devotion"||29||—||—||—|
|1963||"From Russia with Love"||20||—||—||—|
|1965||"Without You (I Cannot Live)"||37||101||—||73|
|"Merci Cherie" / "Honey on the Vine"||—||—||—||74|
|1967||"The Lady Smiles"||—||—||11||—|
|"What to Do"||—||—||22||—|
|1968||"The Music Played"||—||—||15||25|
|1970||"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"||—||—||—||72|
|1973||"And You Smiled"||28||—||—||100|
|1995||"We're Gonna Change the World" (with Matt Monro Jnr)||100||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes releases that failed to chart/were not released|
- Weber, Bruce. "Monro Clicks as a Singer, So-So in His Bantering 'Act'", Billboard. 20 July 1968.
- Bush, John. "This Is Matt Monro". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- Porter, Hilary (18 August 2015). "Son keeps 'man with the golden voice' music going". Southern Daily Echo. Southampton, UK. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- GRO Register of Births: MAR 1931 1b 748 FINSBURY – Terence E. Parsons, mmn = Reed
- Chou, Oliver (29 December 2014). "Hong Kong DJ 'Uncle' Ray Cordeiro still plays and breaks records at 90". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
For a measure of Hong Kong music guru Ray Cordeiro's longevity, consider this: as a young DJ of 29, he hosted a radio talent show called Talent Time, in which a young British serviceman by the name of Terry Parsons took part and won week after week. The year was 1953, and the young serviceman would later change his name to Matt Monro and earn the nickname the 'Man with the Golden Voice' as he recorded smash hits of the 1960s, including film theme songs 'Born Free' and 'From Russia With Love'.
- Chou, Oliver (8 July 2012). "An Audience with Uncle Ray". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original (PDFlocation=Hong Kong) on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
"In Talent Time, a certain Terry Parsons showcased his impeccable voice and won so often that Cordeiro offered him his own one-off show, on the condition that he would not take part in Talent Time again. He accepted the offer and, on 27 June 1953, performed his first concert on air. Two songs from that show are featured in the Matt Monro Special Reserve Collection, recently released in Britain. 'Terry Parsons was Matt's real name, and he was in Hong Kong for two years in the military. With his consecutive wins, I made the offer because, otherwise, nobody would have signed up for the show. Many years later, when I was in London on a training course at the BBC, I looked him up in the studio. But he was in a rehearsal. I asked the man at the gate to tell him Ray from Hong Kong was waiting to see him. Munro stopped the session, running down the aisle, embracing me like a long-lost brother. He loved Hong Kong and remembered his good days here and came to my show whenever he was in town.'Alt URL
- "Daily Mirror". Daily Mirror: 10. 17 November 1956.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 315/6. ISBN 0-7535-0149-X.
- "Daily Mirror". Daily Mirror: 19. 2 November 1956.
- "songs4europe.com". songs4europe.com. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
- "Daily Mirror". Daily Mirror: 12. 2 January 1957.
- "The Stage". The Stage: 4. 27 June 1957.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 315/6. ISBN 0-7535-0149-X.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 91. CN 5585.
- O'Connor, John Kennedy. The Eurovision Song Contest – The Official History. Carlton Books, UK. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84442-994-3
- "Listas de superventas: 1969". Listadesuperventas.blogspot.com. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- UK Official Charts website
- Monro, Michele (2010). The Singers Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro. London: Titan Books. ISBN 978-1848566187.
- "Matt Monro, Britain's 'Cockney Como,' Dies at 54". Los Angeles Times. 8 February 1985. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- Triggs, John (30 January 2010). "Matt Monro: Tragedy of the singing bus driver". Express.co.uk.
- GRO Register of Deaths: FEB 1985 13 2160 KENSINGTON & CHELSEA – Matt Monro, DoB = 1 December 1930, (should be 31 Dec?)
- Golders Green Crematorium guide notes
- "Matt Monro - Biography Titan Publishing - 29th January 2010". Mattmonro.com. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- "Axe TV Commercial, 'Readjusting Won't Be Easy' Song by Matt Monro". iSpot.tv. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
- "Official Charts Company-Matt Monro". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 March 2020.