She taught the world to sing – but ended up fitting Debenhams bras

By Cahal Milmo
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:19

As lead vocalist of The New Seekers, with her lilting Scottish accent and luxuriant 1970s hairstyle, Eve Graham was once one of the most famous singers in the world. She had 25 million record sales to her name and a list of acquaintances that ran from Paul McCartney to Henry Kissinger.

But proof that fortune does not always follow fame came yesterday when Ms Graham – who sang at President Richard Nixon's inauguration ball in 1973 – revealed that to make ends meet after The New Seekers parted company, and phone calls from record producers dried up, she took to fitting bras in a branch of Debenhams in Essex.

But just as it seemed that the world was ready to forget her, Ms Graham, 65, now living in Perthshire, Scotland, has been contacted by the producer of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", David Mackay, about the possibility of making a new record.

She said yesterday: "David and I are talking about doing traditional Scottish songs but in a way that would be more in keeping with the music we're both known for. I guess you haven't heard the last of me yet."

When The New Seekers were at the height of their fame, they had five records in the American charts at the same time and played to packed stadiums across the world. Their best-known song, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", adopted by Coca-Cola for its famous "Hilltop" advert, sold 96,000 copies in one day and recorded a total of 12 million sales.

But due to a contract dispute about her entitlement to the proceeds of further sales, Ms Graham has not had a penny in royalties since 1973. She left the band in 1978 and after trying to forge a solo career eventually decided in 2000 to find another career.

She said: "It's best not to dwell on the past. I don't get a penny when a New Seekers record sells and that can be irritating, but you can't let it rule your life. I thought I would retire up here but there are still good opportunities to make music.

"It got to the point when the agents weren't ringing and I needed to do something to pay the bills and get out of the house.

"I saw an advert for a vacancy at the branch of Debenhams in Colchester, close to where we were living then, and thought that would be good to try.

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"I started as an assistant in womenswear and moved to the lingerie department. Then I became a qualified bra-fitter; a representative of a bra company offered me training. It was great work, making women feel good about themselves and how they looked. Everybody moves on from the different phases in their life."

After a two-year stint at Debenhams in Colchester, close to where her husband, Kevin Finn, another New Seekers band member, was working as a music composer for fairground rides, Ms Graham returned to her native Scotland to retire. She now helps her husband run a kitchen and bathroom design company.

It is a far cry from the heady days when fans would sleep outside Ms Graham's hotel door for the chance to catch a glimpse of her. At the height of their popularity, The New Seekers, whose brand of folksy pop was designed to appeal to the same fans who had enjoyed the music of their musical forebears, the 1960s Australian band The Seekers, were arguably the most successful act in the world.

Ms Graham rubbed shoulders with Bob Dylan and McCartney at glitzy parties in Los Angeles and recalls a "really interesting conversation" with Henry Kissinger, who was National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in Nixon's administration.

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