B. J. Arnau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
B. J. Arnau
Born Brenda Burton
May/June, 1945
Cleveland, OH, USA
Other names Brenda Arnau
Occupation Entertainer
Employer UA Records, RCA Records
Known for Singer and Actor
Height 5'10"
Spouse(s)

? Arnaud (divorced)

Michael Bastow (as of 1973)
Children ? (daughter)
Relatives ? Burton (younger brother)

B. J. Arnau is an American-born female singer and actress active in the UK and the US from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. She is also known as Brenda Arnau.[1]

Biography[edit]

A recently-discovered 1973 newspaper article [2] sheds new light on this mysterious lady.

She was born Brenda Burton in Cleveland, Ohio, in May or June (she's a Gemini) of 1945, and she has a younger brother. Her first husband's surname was Arnaud, which she modified to "Arnau" for her stage name. As of the date of the article, she was married to Michael Bastow (a movie art-director) and had one daughter whom she shielded from all publicity.

After considering a career as a fashion designer, Brenda worked as a telephone operator in Los Angeles, then as a go-go dancer and a hairdresser in San Francisco, before moving to Las Vegas to audition (unsuccessfully) to become a showgirl. She eventually managed to land a guest-spot on Joey Bishop's TV show, and an uncredited role as a sharecropper in the movie of Finian's Rainbow (1968), but success in the USA eluded her, so she decided to try somewhere else.

Surprisingly, she began in the Far East, becoming a bit of a star on the U.S. Armed Forces Network during the Vietnam War, and performing for American troops in the war-zone. This so completely changed her outlook on life that she couldn't face returning to the USA. Instead, she moved to Paris, struggling to build a career there, and in London.

While singing at London's Playboy Club, in 1970, she was discovered by famed producer Kenneth Tynan, who added her to the cast of his successful West End production of Oh Calcutta, and gave her new material in it, including a scene entitled To His Black Mistress.[3] She stayed with the production for seven months (during which, she took singing lessons for the first time in her life), before leaving on a world tour of cabaret gigs.

In 1973, she returned to England, where she created the role of Silvia, in the original London production of the rock musical Two Gentlemen of Verona, and sang on the cast recording of it.[4]

Arnau is best remembered as the cabaret act in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973). She performed the title track (composed by Paul and Linda McCartney). The producer, Harry Saltzman, requested a black soul singer for the opening credits but Arnau’s appearance was a compromise. The soundtrack’s composer George Martin indicated that “McCartney would only allow the song to be used in the movie if [his group] Wings were able to perform the song in the opening credits...”.[citation needed] In a review of the soundtrack, Eder cites Arnau’s performance as “far more interesting [than] any of the instrumental material...”.[5]

Another black female singer, Shirley Bassey, was already synonymous with Bond themes. Arnau went on to perform Bassey’s hit "Big Spender" on the 1975 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show (following Bassey's 1971 appearance).

Live and Let Die strengthened a demand on TV; acting and singing on The Benny Hill Show (Episode 27 - aired 24 March 1976),[6] and in guest spots on The John Denver Show and Frost’s Weekly.

Arnau’s James Bond appearance led to her signing a three-year record deal with RCA in London, and securing a cabaret season at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. An LP of cover-versions was released the same year. It was a serious effort drawing on her soul roots, backed by a variety of artists including Francis Monkman of Curved Air; Albert Lee of Head, Hands and Feet; Herbie Flowers and Rosetta Hightower. Her single recordings for various labels dating from 1968 culminated with the release of the self-penned double-A side Electra Flash / Dance Electra Flash on Pye in 1980. Electra’s disco influence was a departure from earlier material on UA and Polydor.

Arnau then faded from public view, and information is now scarce.

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

1968 "Gonna Spread Love" (UA)

1969 "Yesterday I Heard the Rain" (UA)

1971 "Children Outside" (Philips)

1971 "I Want To Go Back There Again" (Mojo/Polydor)

1972 "The Big Hurt" (Polydor)

1973 "Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me" (RCA)

1973 "Live and Let Die" (RCA)

1973 "Jubilation" (RCA)

1974 "Step in the Right Direction" (Bell)

1980 AA: "Electra Flash" / "Dance Electra Flash" (Pye)

Albums[edit]

1968 "Finian's Rainbow Soundtrack" [Uncredited] (Warner Brothers)

1973 "Two Gentlemen of Verona - Original London Cast Recording" (RSO) [7]

1973 "Live and Let Die Soundtrack" (UA)

1973 "B. J. Arnau" (RCA)

References[edit]

External links[edit]