By Geoffrey Rowlands
Cruise ship holidays are becoming ever more popular. They have certainly been very helpful in the career of English singer Jane McDonald. Now back in the UK top ten with her latest album, Cruising with Jane McDonald, features the 1998 BBC Television observational documentary series, The Cruise, which transformed Jane into a star.
She was 34 and had been singing for more than a decade when BBC decided to make 12 programmes, boarding the luxury cruise ship Galaxy as it sailed around the Caribbean. Jane’s personality and her vocal talent was revealed during the clips of her performances.
BBC also broadcasted two special Cruise programmes focusing on Jane. The first covered her marriage to Danish plumber Henrik Brixen in St Thomas, Virgin Islands. The couple had met during an earlier cruise when they were working on Century, Galaxy’s sister-ship.
The second special was Jane’s Cruise to the Stars. Airing on December 31, 1998, it effectively topped and tailed the most remarkable year of her life. The first episode of The Cruise was broadcasted on January 13 while Jane Ties The Knot had been televised in July. This was also the month when her self-titled debut album had stormed straight to number one on the UK chart.
“It was unbelievable,” she smiled. “I began 1998 as a largely unknown girl from Wakefield in Yorkshire who had sung in so many clubs around northern England without ever being noticed by any really important people and ended the year as a household name. I recorded as the best-selling album and even had a top ten hit on the Christmas week singles chart.”
Ironically, Jane almost turned down the offer to perform aboard Galaxy. Apart from meeting Henrik, from whom she is now divorced, she had an unhappy time on Century. There were delays in being paid, technical difficulties with the sound equipment and generally stressful working conditions. Jane returned to singing in the clubs. It was only the opportunity to become the headlining singer on Galaxy which tempted her back to sea.
“I never imagined what the outcome from the TV series might be. But I had always considered myself a success even if it had been on a much lower level.
“I think if you have a job like a singer, where you’ve been blessed with a gift and you’re making a living from it, then you’re a success even if you’re not famous. I was doing something I loved and that was a success itself, even if a club did close the curtain on me part ways through a song because it was time for the bingo.”
Further big hit albums followed Jane’s chart-topping debut. These were promoted on numerous sold-out concert tours. But her popularity with television viewers was such that Jane was also able to carve out a career as a television personality. Her many credits include guest appearances on a wide variety of shows ranging from Ready Steady Cook to Tipping Point: Lucky Stars. Her presentation work included eight years on Loose Women.
“I’ve been very lucky to be able to do so many things which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Even those times when I’ve decided to stop doing something, usually against good advice, I’ve then had offers to do some other really interesting projects.
“The most exciting of these was playing Grizabella in a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wonderful stage musical, Cats. I had decided to stop doing television shows. I’d reached a point where I thought I needed to do something else but had no actual plans. A lot of people thought I was being foolish. In some ways, I just wanted a rest. I had almost done 97 shows of some sort one right after the other.
“But the offer came for me to audition for Cats. I was a lot older than the other people auditioning and thought I didn’t stand a chance. Funnily enough, having no expectations took some of the pressure off when I auditioned for Andrew but I still couldn’t believe it when they called me to say I’ve got the part.”
Jane freely acknowledges that performing in Cats made her a better singer.
“I didn’t realise how unfit I was. The warm-up exercises were all about strengthening the core of the body. Doing them allowed me to belt out songs like I’ve never done before. I got into my fifties and felt like I was just learning to sing.”
Alongside all her stage work, Jane returned both to television and cruising in 2017 with her British Academy of Film and Television Award-winning series, Cruising with Jane McDonald.
“I almost didn’t go to the BAFTA ceremony. I didn’t think there was any chance of the show winning and I was filming my other new show, Jane and Friends. I didn’t prepare any acceptance speech. Mark Powell, the executive producer, wrote a speech for me and said I should put it in my pocket just in case. I almost didn’t take it with me.”
Part travelogue, part documentary and part entertainment, it is the songs sung by Jane at the end of each programme which make up the track list on her Cruising with Jane McDonald album.
“It’s been wonderful for me to be able to sail off on so many different cruises. I’d never been on a river cruise before doing one for the show. Recording the songs for the album brought back all the fantastic memories of visiting the beautiful coastline of California, colourful Cuba, rugged Iceland and so many other wonderful places. It made me want to sing my heart out.”
A new television documentary claims to have solved the 22-year-old murder of rap star Tupac Shakur.
Rapper Keefe D, real name Duane Keith Davis, is dying from cancer. He says he is the only person still alive who can reveal what happened on the night of September 7, 1996 and wanted to do so before he passes away.
It is known that Tupac and Death Row Records boss Suge Knight attended the Mike Tyson v Bruce Seldon boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After the fight, Orlando ‘Baby Lane’ Anderson was spotted in the MGM Grand lobby. He, and other members of the Crips gang, had allegedly robbed a Death Row employee earlier in the year. Tupac, along with his and Suge Knight’s entourage, took revenge by attacking Anderson.
Later that night, Anderson, plus fellow Crips Keefe D, Terrence ‘T-Brown’ Brown, and DeAndre ‘Dre’ Smith, searched Las Vegas for Tupac with the intention of exacting retribution. He was eventually found, according to Keefe D, standing up through the open top of a car ‘like a celebrity in a parade.’ The Crips pulled alongside in their car and Orlando Anderson fired the shots from which Tupac eventually succumbed six days later.
Assuming Keefe D’s words are true, they confirm a 2002 story in the Los Angeles Times by investigative reporter Chuck Phillips who named Anderson as Tupac’s killer. He had died four years earlier, aged 24, in an unrelated gang shooting. Las Vegas police had discounted Anderson as a suspect after one brief interview.
Cheryl Cole/Liam Payne
Love for one another and their son, Bear, is apparently not enough to keep Cheryl Cole and Liam Payne together.
Liam had insisted earlier this year that they were a very happy family. He and Cheryl still say they love each other and will continue to co-parent Bear.
So, why have they decided to split up? Friends have suggested they are simply two different people with little in common. This seems strange in view of their both being in the same profession. But it looks like the birth of their son, coupled with Liam’s burgeoning solo career, has caused a division in their relationship. Former One Direction star Liam has promoted his music with appearances all over the world. Conversely, Bear has become Cheryl’s top priority. She prefers to stay at home with him. Liam keeping in touch by Face Time just didn’t work for her.
Cheryl and Liam are not the only pop music power couple to announce their split. American singer / songwriter Halsey and rap star G-Eazy had been dating for exactly one year when Halsey used her Instagram account to inform her fans that she and G-Eazy are ‘taking some time apart.’
“I’m eager to continue the upcoming passage of time dedicating myself to my art and career, and the duration of my tour,” she added. “I wish G-Eazy the best.”
The couple released a big hit song last December. They co-wrote and duetted on Him & I, the second single taken from G-Eazy’s fourth studio album, The Beautiful & Damned.
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