Daughter celebrates ‘the Shoreditch Sinatra’ and man with the golden voice
- Credit: Archant
Matt Monro sang a Bond theme and became one of the nation’s best-loved singers. In the month of his ninetieth birthday – more than 35 years after his death – daughter Michelle is working to keep his memory alive.
The overnight success of 21st century popstars has little in common with the long and winding road taken by Terry Parsons before he hit the big time.
The “Shoreditch Sinatra,” who changed his name to Matt Monro, was a true Cockney, born in 1930 just yards away from Bow Church.
He attended Duncombe Primary in Holloway and at 17, joined the army and served in Hong Kong. Upon his return, he became an East End bricklayer and bus driver. But he also played small clubs for pocket money and singing practice before winning a TV talent show that launched his career.
It wasn’t until he was a twice married 30-year-old that Monro had a UK top-five single. And in the following six years he released Bond theme “From Russia With Love”, finished second on Eurovision and sang the Oscar-winning title song from Born Free.
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Fame took a while to come around for Monro, but it lasted the rest of his life. With a suave transatlantic accent and smooth-as-silk baritone to rival Ol’ Blue Eyes, Monro was a rare natural – and recognised as such by his peers.
Sinatra once said: “If I had to choose three of the finest male vocalists in the singing business, Matt would be one of them.”
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Michelle Monro, the singer’s second child and the first with second wife Mickie Schuller, was born the year her father turned 30. She still remembers the disorientation she felt watching him perform at Eurovision in 1964.
The 61-year-old said: “Me, my mum and my newborn brother were watching it in the lounge, and I couldn’t understand why dad was in the room, but he wasn’t there. I just didn’t get it. I had to leave the room because I was so upset.”
A loving and devoted father when he was around, Michelle says her father spent up to nine months a year travelling and recording in the US. She saw him live for the first time at 12, another jarring moment which forced her to see her dad as more than hers alone.
“I was sitting in the room when the lights went down and a single spotlight came on”, she said, “and people were standing and applauding. I thought, ‘Well he has hasn’t done anything yet.’
“At the end of the show, going backstage I couldn’t get near him. That was the night I learned that lesson: he wasn’t just my dad. He was Matt Monro, and I would have to always share him.”
Monro’s long absences from his family may have echoed his distance from his own parents. His father Frederick died when he was three and his mother Alice was soon taken to a sanitorium. Those childhood tragedies were made worse by physical illnesses which forced Monro to spend long stretches in hospital. Always a sickly child, Michelle said, the weakness made him vulnerable to liver cancer in later life. Although he gave up alcohol in 1980, he died five years later, aged just 54.
Despite being known as ‘the man with the golden voice,’ the singer who worked with John Barry, Don Black, and Beatles producer George Martin has been somewhat underrated.
In the decades since his death, Michelle has worked tirelessly to uphold her father’s memory – and learn more about him in the process.
She wrote warts-and-all biography “The Singer’s Singer” in 2010 and oversaw the release of “Stranger in Paradise: The Lost New York Sessions” in March this year.
The album of newly released material broke into the UK top-ten and spent months in the charts.
Now, Michelle has orchestrated “The Boy from Shoreditch”, a new audio documentary released free on YouTube. Episodes of “The Boy from Shoreditch” are available here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3glldVrxcg