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October 8, 1947|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Occupation||Singer, songwriter, actress, author|
|Spouse(s)||Chris Robinson (m. 1980; div. 2004)|
Sheila Diana Ferguson (born October 8, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and author. She was the second longest-serving member of the 1970s American female soul music group The Three Degrees, singing lead vocals on most of the group's biggest hits, most notably "When Will I See You Again", which was a huge international success topping the UK Singles Chart and peaked at #2 in the US.
Following her departure from The Three Degrees in 1986, Ferguson went on to have her own solo singing career, touring internationally, making multiple TV appearances, and releasing a solo album titled A New Kind of Medicine. She has forged a prolific stage and screen career in the UK, starring in numerous musicals, soul legend tours, and her own sitcom Land of Hope and Gloria. She is also the best-selling author of Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.
Sheila Diana Ferguson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite attending more than 10 schools as a child, she was academically gifted and had originally wanted to become a psychologist. A teenage crush on the singer Marvin Gaye led her to try her hand at singing in the hope that, by doing so, she would be able to meet him. She achieved this dream some time later when, appearing at the Apollo Theater, she talked to Gaye in his dressing room.
While at high school, Ferguson was introduced by her teacher to Richard Barrett, who had previously been a singer with a group called The Valentines, and later had gone on to become a manager. Barrett signed Ferguson to Swan Records, and she recorded her first solo single "Little Red Riding Hood". Ferguson also recorded the first two songs she wrote herself "I Weep for You" and "Don't Leave Me Lover".
Other solo songs she recorded were "How Did That Happen", written by Lamont Dozier (co-writer of many of The Supremes' hits), "And in Return" and "Are You Satisfied", written by General Johnson (later to become known to the world as the lead singer of Chairmen of the Board).
Ferguson recorded two up-tempo numbers written for her by a talented up and coming songwriter by the name of Leon Huff. Huff would later team up with the gifted and prolific Kenny Gamble to form the legendary Philadelphia International Records. These were "Heartbroken Memories" and "Signs of Love".
The Three Degrees
Although Barrett signed Ferguson as a solo artist, he was already in the process of creating a group called The Three Degrees with the line up of Fayette Pinkney, Shirley Porter and Linda Turner. By 1966, the line up had changed to be Fayette Pinkney, Helen Scott and Janet Harmon. However, Scott announced she would be leaving the group in order to get married. Having previously appeared with the group as a cover when one of the girls fell ill, Ferguson was asked by Pinkney and Harmon to become a permanent member. In 1967, Harmon left the group and was replaced by Valerie Holiday. Barrett signed them to several record labels, and by 1970, they were signed to Roulette Records and released their first album Maybe, the title song of which reached #4 in the US R&B charts. The singles "I Do Take You" and "You're the Fool" followed as well as second album So Much Love.
It was during this year that The Three Degrees enjoyed their greatest success when signed by Philadelphia International Records and working with Gamble and Huff. Their first song under this label was "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", which was the theme song for Soul Train. Under this label the group began to tour internationally. The self-titled The Three Degrees was released in 1973 and yielded hits such as "Dirty Ol' Man" (which went to #13 in the UK Singles Chart) and "Year of Decision" (which went to gold in the Netherlands and Belgium).
However, the subsequent release of "When Will I See You Again" ensured international recognition when the song became #1 in the UK charts for two weeks in August 1974 (the first time this had been achieved by an all female group since The Supremes). Following an appearance on Top of the Pops, other countries followed suit and "When Will I See You Again" did extremely well worldwide reaching #2 in the U.S. where it sold over two million copies and earned the group a gold record in 1974.
The group recorded two live albums in 1975 and a further studio album The Three Degrees International. This album was called Take Good Care of Yourself in the UK, the title song of which reached the top 10 in the same country. The album itself reached #6 in the UK Albums Chart.
In 1976, they released the album A Toast of Love (for the Far East market), the title song of which was released internationally. This was the year that Fayette Pinkney left and was replaced by former member Helen Scott. They then released Standing Up for Love, an album, in 1977.
In 1978 and 1979, they released two disco-styled albums New Dimensions and 3D. From these albums. they had four top 20 hits in the UK with "Givin' Up, Givin' In", "Woman in Love", "The Runner" (co-written by Ferguson) and "My Simple Heart". They also released A Collection of Their 20 Greatest Hits, a compilation album.
In 1980 they released Gold, another compilation album, which reached the top 10 in the UK Album Charts, and in 1982, they recorded a TV show for the BBC (Take Three Degrees), performing their greatest hits. They then released two albums Album of Love and Live in the UK. The single "Liar", co-written by Ferguson, was released. and in 1985, they released "The Heaven I Need" and "This Is The House", produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
Ferguson left The Three Degrees in 1986.
In 2004, Ferguson released her debut solo album A New Kind of Medicine. She is also a lead on the original cast recording of Always and recorded two other albums Misty Blue...and More and Songs from Oh! What a Night.
She featured in Star Alliance's recording of "He's a Runner" in 2006 and recorded "Fool of the Year" for the album Disco 2008, produced by Ian Levine.
She starred in David Gest's (I've Had) the Time of My Life Tour! across September and October 2015, culminating in a performance at the Connaught Rooms, London, followed by performing at "The Legends of Soul Weekender" with Mary Wilson, Thelma Houston, Gwen Dickey and Jackie Graham in Skegness.
In June 2016, Ferguson performed in a series of soul gigs ("A Night of Soul") in Cyprus with Andy Abraham.
Ferguson has starred in numerous musicals and pantomimes in the UK.
Her first musical was Always in 1997 at the Victoria Palace, London, which also starred Shani Wallis. She then starred in Soul Train (The Musical), Oh What a Night, playing Roxia, and Thoroughly Modern Millie (musical), playing Muzzy Van Hossmere.
In 2005, Ferguson starred in the premiere of the West End musical Behind the Iron Mask at the Duchess Theatre and then toured in Hot Flush, a musical based on the menopause. In 2008, she starred in Sister Act-Songs from the Film.
Most recently she starred in the West End musical celebration Respect La Diva at the Garrick Theatre and in Daddy Cool as Pearl.
Ferguson also appeared as the Fairy Godmother and Wicked Queen in numerous pantomimes, including Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.
From December 2012 to January 2013, Ferguson appeared in Cinderella at the Nottingham Theatre Royal as the Fairy Godmother, a role she reprised at the Theatre Royal Norwich from December 2013 to January 2014. She then starred as the Wicked Queen in Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal, Windsor from December 2014 to January 2015, followed by appearing as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at The Sands Centre, Carlisle in December 2015.
Ferguson headlined Ipswich Regent Theatre's pantomime, playing the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty from December 2016 to January 2017.
Ferguson is the first and only black woman to star in her own sitcom in the UK. She played the lead role in the TV sitcom Land of Hope and Gloria, which ran for six episodes in 1992 and was her first acting venture. She also wrote and sang the title song for the series. Although a second series was planned, the idea was shelved after the death of co-star Joan Sanderson.
Ferguson was a panelist in Les Dawson's first hosting of the quiz show Blankety Blank in 1984 and has appeared on the TV show Never Mind the Buzzcocks several times, three times as a panelist and once dressed as a pirate in the celebrity line up. She also appeared on Comic Relief in Da Bungalow.
In 2004 Ferguson was a contestant on the fourth series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, followed by being a contestant in the first series of Celebrity MasterChef in 2006. In May 2011m she starred in the second series of Channel 4s Celebrity Five Go To, in which the celebrities visited South Africa.
Ferguson presented the documentary The Philadelphia Records Story for Smooth FM in the UK on March 22, 2009.
On April 11, 2012, Ferguson co-hosted Newcastle-based charity, Toma Fund's Eurovision Reunited event..
In 1989, Ferguson published a cook book inspired by recipes from her American background, Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.
She was awarded an Ethnic Minority Business Foundation national achievement award by the Bank of England and its Governor Eddie George in 1999 and was awarded the City of Compton California Book Award for her book Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.
Ferguson is a patron of the theatre charity The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America and has long been a supporter of the Combined Theatrical Charities taking part in the launch of its Acting for Others campaign in 2003. She has been a patron of the national parenting charity, Parentalk, from 1997, raising over £70K for the charity through celebrity appearances. She is also a supporter of WaterAid and appeared in the 2014 To Be a Girl campaign.
She has appeared on two charity singles, It's a Live-In World for the Anti Heroin Project in 1986, and Give Give Give produced by Paul Hardcastle under the title Disco Aid in 1986, followed by a re-production by Stock, Aitken & Waterman under the title Dance Aid in 1987 to support multiple sclerosis research.
Ferguson has been an active supporter of artists rights through her membership and work for both the Phonographic Performance Ltd and the Performing Rights Society. The board of PPL voted unanimously to make Ferguson a Lifetime Guardian Member of the organisation after merging with the Performing Artists Media Rights Organisation (of which she was a founder member on the original board) in 2006. She has been an Equity (trade union) Councillor and an events speaker at and on behalf of Equity. Ferguson has also been a judge at the Race in Media Awards on several occasions.
She has been an Ambassador for The Prince's Trust since 2008.
Ferguson lives in Majorca, where she settled with her partner Jon Curry before his death in 2010.
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The Three Degrees
- 1970: Maybe
- 1973: The Three Degrees
- 1975: International
- 1975: The Three Degrees Live in Japan
- 1976: A Toast of Love
- 1976: The Three Degrees Live
- 1977: Standing Up for Love
- 1978: New Dimensions
- 1979: 3D
- 1982: Album of Love
- 1985: Live in the UK
- 2004: A New Kind of Medicine
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- 1992: Bobby Davro: Summer Season
- 1996: Rock with Laughter (Cannon & Ball)
- 1997: Always
- 2000/1: Soul Train (The Musical)
- 2002/3: Oh! What a Night
- 2003/4: Thoroughly Modern Millie
- 2005: Behind the Iron Mask
- 2006: Cinderella (pantomime)
- 2007: Hot Flush
- 2007: The Songs of Sister Act
- 2007: Snow White (pantomime)
- 2008: Aladdin (pantomime)
- 2009: Dick Whittington (pantomime)
- 2010: Fame, The Musical
- 2011: The Hot 100 (Dubai)
- 2011: Respect La Diva
- 2011: Cinderella (pantomime)
- 2012: Daddy Cool
- 2012: The Music & Magic Ball
- 2012: Cinderella (pantomime)
- 2013/14: David Gest's Soul Legends Live
- 2013: Cinderella (pantomime)
- 2014: Beauty and the Beast (pantomime)
- 1970: The French Connection
- 1992: Land of Hope and Gloria
- 1992: Brookside
- 1992: Desmonds
- Allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 February 2009. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 351. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Ferguson, Sheila (1989). Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 208. ISBN 0-297-79703-4.
- "Sheila Ferguson Biography". Sheilaferguson.com. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 198. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Ian Gittins. "The Who review – even at 50, still too spiky to be national treasures | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
- "News". Sheilaferguson.com. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013.
- "Cinderella - TRCH". Stapleford-notts.co.uk. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- "Former Three Degrees star set to cast her magic on Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime". Eveningnews24.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013.
- "BBC Radio Norfolk - Stephen Bumfrey interviews Sheila Ferguson". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013.
- "Celebrity Five Go To..." Channel4.com. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Radio Times, 11–17 February 2017 , pp. 32-33
- "News | Variety, the Children's Charity". Variety.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
- "Sheila Ferguson and Chris Robinson on their wedding day" (JFIF). Mailpictures.newsprints.co.uk. Retrieved 15 September 2013.