Lynsey de Paul: A gritty and determined star who penned a string of hits and won two Ivor Novello awards

She had grit and determination and was able to stand up to the bullies in the record industry.

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The Independent Online

The singer, pianist and songwriter Lynsey de Paul wrote several hit songs for herself and for other artists in the 1970s, but don’t be misled by her slight, doll-like appearance and ethereal vocals.

She had grit and determination and was able to stand up to the bullies in the record industry.

She was born Lynsey Rubin to Meta and Herbert Rubin in Cricklewood, north London in 1950. Her father, a property developer, played the violin and her mother the piano, and for several years she learned to play classical music; her parents couldn’t abide popular music and didn’t want her listening to it. Her self-esteem suffered when her father beat her. She was a dumpy teenager and that experience came out in her song, “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me”, a hit single which won an Ivor Novello songwriting award in 1973.

As a teenager she didn’t think she was talented enough to become a professional musician and so studied at Hornsey College of Art. She designed some album sleeves, including one for the Pipkins and, having moved away from her parents, she became interested in the music of the day. Her first songs were written for the child star, Jack Wild, then in 1972 she wrote “Storm In A Teacup” with her friend Ron Roker. The songwriter and record producer Roger Cook saw its potential, recorded it with the Fortunes, and it became a Top 10 single.

This was the era of Carole King’s Tapestry and her boyfriend, Dudley Moore, thought she should go to the most successful manager of the day, Gordon Mills. “I was also writing with Barry Green,” De Paul told me, “and we wrote ‘Sugar Me’ for Peter Noone, but Gordon Mills heard my demo and thought it would a good single for me. There had been the massacre at the Munich Olympics and I was told that it would be better not to have a Jewish name. I took De from my mother’s maiden name, De Groot, and my father’s middle name was Paul. Then when Barry Green started recording, he became Barry Blue, so he lost a bit of yellow.”

The slow and sensuous “Sugar Me” was a Top 10 single and a hit throughout Europe. It was covered in the US by Nancy Sinatra and Claudine Longet. It was followed by “Getting A Drag”, a comment on the glam rock of the day. The singer doesn’t mind her boyfriend wearing her clothes, but she is disheartened that he looks better in them than she does. She wrote all the songs on her first album, Surprise; half the tracks had been her songwriting demos.

In 1973 De Paul co-wrote Barry Blue’s No 2 single “Dancing On A Saturday Night” and Thunderthighs had a hit with her song “Central Park Arrest”. Her best record, “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me”, featured Ed “Stewpot” Stewart as the male voice at the end. It was covered by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys.

De Paul felt she was being cheated by Mills and his record company MAM, and her boyfriend, Roy Wood, recommended Don Arden, who was having success with ELO. In 1974 she wrote and sang the theme song from the sitcom, No – Honestly, starring John Alderton and Pauline Collins. It was another Top 10 hit and won another Ivor Novello. She was next in the news for her romance with Ringo Starr, though they parted amicably after four months.

Her business dealings with Arden soon soured and she had to sue him for what she was owed. In 1976 Arden refused, out of spite, to issue her album, Take Your Time. She stood up to him and a court established that he was in the wrong, but the satisfaction of winning affected her health. Several of the tracks from Take Your Time were officially released on the compilation Into My Music in 2013. It included a song about Roy Wood, “Martian Man”.

In 1977 she and Mike Moran started writing songs together and “Rock Bottom” was the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. They had written the song for Blue Mink and unfortunately it was not the right material for the Contest, and fared badly – but then calling your entry “Rock Bottom” was only asking for it. It was a minor hit, whereas one of the biggest singles of the year, “Telephone Man” by Meri Wilson, sounded just like a De Paul record.

For several years De Paul was the partner of the Hollywood action man James Coburn, and she stopped writing and recording regularly, spending most of her time in Los Angeles. The relationship ended when he became violent and she returned to London in 1981, immersing herself in numerous projects.

She drew cartoons about light-bulbs, resulting in the book Light Entertainment; she recorded classical pieces on a synthesiser, Air On A Heartstring; and she became a West End success in Pump Boys And Dinettes with Joe Brown. She wrote and performed a song for the Conservative Party conference in 1983, and two years later won the accolade of Rear Of The Year, which she accepted “from the heart of my bottom”.

In more recent times she had encouraged self-defence in a DVD for women; undertaken some travel writing for the Daily Mail; and made a TV series interviewing songwriters, Lynsey’s Love Songs, for Sky. She was also a director of the Performing Rights Society. She died of a suspected brain haemorrhage.

Lynsey Monckton Rubin (Lynsey de Paul), singer, songwriter and artist: born London 11 June 1950; died 1 October 2014.

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