Photos of Alma:
Alma sings in 1956 short film:
Alma Cogan [Alma Angela Cohen] (1932-1966), singer, was born on 19 May 1932 in Whitechapel, East London, the second of the three children of Mark Cohen Cogan (formerly Kogin; 1902-1952), a costumier, and Fanny Cogan (nee Carp). Mark Cogan had been born in Vinitza, Russia, into a Jewish family, whence his own parents had emigrated in the 1890s to Whitechapel. The Carp family were also Jewish immigrants. Alma's siblings were Ivor (b. 1930) and Sandra, an actress who took the stage name Sandra Caron.
Fanny Cogan was a gifted pianist who had played in cinemas in south London from the age of ten. Alma first sang at family gatherings at the age of four. The family moved from London in the late 1930s, living in Slough, Reading-where Alma was educated at St Joseph's Convent-and Worthing. She made her public debut at a charity concert in Reading aged ten. In Worthing she studied dress design and sang with a local dance band.
In 1946 Alma Cogan won the Sussex Queen of Song contest and was given an audition by the bandleader Ted Heath. He told her to 'come back in six years'. Her first professional stage appearance was at the Grand Theatre, Brighton, in 1947 when she appeared in a variety show starring comedian Max Miller. She next had a minor role in the London production of the American musical show High Button Shoes, written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. After work in cabaret and as a film extra she successfully auditioned for a recording career with Walter (Wally) Ridley at His Master's Voice (HMV) in 1950. Her first recording was To be Worthy of You (1952). While rehearsing with Wally Ridley, Alma developed her trademark vocal embellishment when she giggled and sang simultaneously. This led to her being known as 'the girl with the laugh in her voice'.
During the 1950s Alma Cogan appeared frequently on the BBC Light Programme after passing an audition which reported 'a Judy Garland type voice with very good diction'. She was a cast member of the comedy series Gently Bentley and Take It From Here and of the variety programme The Forces Show. Her television debut came in 1954 in garrison theatre, where she sang her first hit song, 'Bell Bottom Blues', which sold more than 100,000 copies. Alma became the resident singer on the Morecambe and Wise television series Running Wild. She was adept at using the new medium, and by the 1960s she had her own BBC series.
In 1955 she appeared at the royal variety performance and had a number one hit with 'Dreamboat'. She had more hits than any other female singer of the era; her other successes included 'Twenty Tiny Fingers', 'Sugartime', and 'Cowboy Jimmy Joe'. She also appeared in summer season in Blackpool and in the pantomime Aladdin at the Chiswick Empire, London. She was renowned for her extravagant stage costumes. A dress created for an appearance at the London Palladium contained over 12,000 rhinestones and diamond beads and 250 yards of nylon tulle.
Alma made her first visit to the United States in 1957, where she appeared in cabaret at the Persian Rooms, New York. During the 1960s she made many overseas tours within Europe and to Australia, Japan, South Africa, and Kenya. The musical director of her concert cabaret shows was her regular pianist, Stan Foster.
However, her British record sales went into decline in the 1960s, and she attempted to change her musical direction from the novelty songs that had been her trademark to more substantial romantic numbers. She ended her partnership with Ridley and chose Norman Newell as her new recording manager. She also composed the songs 'It's You' and 'Now that I've Found You' with Stan Foster.
From the late 1950s the Kensington flat shared by Alma Cogan with her mother and sister was the scene of numerous parties attended by the show business elite of the era, including the musical writer Lionel Bart, the actor Stanley Baker, and members of the Beatles. She was known to John Lennon as 'Sara Sequin', and Paul McCartney wrote the melody of 'Yesterday' at the Cogan apartment. Alma was romantically linked with Cary Grant, Lionel Blair, and others but the companion of her final years was club owner Brian Morris.
In 1965 Cogan was admitted to hospital with appendicitis but doctors discovered she had cancer. An operation caused a remission, allowing her to make a final tour of Sweden. She returned to hospital early in October 1966, and died three weeks later, on 25 October, at the Middlesex Hospital, Marylebone, London. A posthumously released album included her recording of Lennon and McCartney's 'Yesterday'.
Sources S. Caron, Alma Cogan (1989) + B. Henson and C. Morgan, First hits: the book of sheet music (1981) + D. McAleer, Hit parade heroes: British beat before the Beatles (1993) + C. White, 'Alma Cogan', Record Collector, 81 (May 1986), 35-9 + b. cert. + d. cert. + Jukebox heroes, 30 July 2001 [television series] + The Times (27 Oct 1966)
Source : DMB