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Mari Wilson

b. Mari MacMillan Ramsey Wilson, 29 September 1957, London, England. In the mid-80s, Mari Wilson single-handedly led a revival of the world of late 50s/early 60s English kitsch. Sporting a beehive hairdo, wearing a pencil skirt and fake mink stole, her publicity photos depicted a world of long-lost suburban curtain and furniture styles, Tupperware, garish colours (often pink) and graphic designs from the period. The songs were treated in the same way, only affectionately and with genuine feeling. The whole image was the idea of Tot Taylor who, composing under the name of Teddy Johns and gifted with the ability to write pastiche songs from almost any era of popular music, also ran the Compact Organisation label. The label’s sense of hype excelled itself as they immediately released a box set of Compact Organisation artists, all of which, with the exception of Wilson, failed to attract the public’s attention. (Although ‘model agent’ Virna Lindt was a music press favourite.)

Wilson was quickly adopted by press, television and radio as a curiosity, all aiding her early 1982 singles ‘Beat The Beat’ and ‘Baby It’s True’ to have a minor effect on the chart. ‘Just What I Always Wanted’ a Top 10 hit, fully encapsulated the Wilson style. However, it was the following year’s cover of the Julie London torch-song number, ‘Cry Me A River’ which, despite only reaching number 27, most people have come to associate with the singer. The song also generated a revival of interest in London’s recordings, resulting in many long-lost (and forgotten) albums being re-released. After touring the world with her backing vocal group, the Wilsations - which included future solo artist Julia Fordham - the return home saw a slowing-down in activity. Although for the most part Wilson was out of the limelight, she provided the vocals to the soundtrack to the Ruth Ellis biopic Dance With A Stranger.

In 1985, Wilson started playing small clubs with her jazz quartet performing standards, as well as writing her own material which led to her appearance with Stan Getz at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Although still affectionately remembered for her beehive, she has been able to put that period behind her and is now taken more seriously as a jazz/pop singer, and is able to regularly fill Ronnie Scott’s club for a season. She also moved into theatre, appearing in the fringe musical Sweet Charity and the Dusty Springfield biopic Dusty, The Musical. Wilson also appears with fellow singers Claire Martin and Barb Jungr (Jungr And Parker) in the sparkling show Girl Talk.
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