In his new show cabaret singer Gary Williams celebrates the music of 1968 – a year in which Presley, Sinatra, Bacharach, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin vied for chart supremacy.
1968 was a year of profound political and social change around the world. War raged in Vietnam, famine blighted Africa and violence spilled onto the streets of America as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum.
Change was also afoot in the world of music. Old school stars such as Andy Williams, Burt Bacharach, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley continued to do it their way, while The Beatles and Led Zeppelin explored new, edgier territory.
Singer Gary Williams will perform songs by all these artists, and other favourite tunes from 1968, in a series of shows at London’s Brasserie Zedel in May.
Williams says: “One of the first cabaret albums I bought was Jeff Harnar Sings The 1959 Songbook. I always thought it was a great concept to present a mash-up of songs from one particular year.”
It was while researching music to play on his weekly radio show on The Wireless that Williams decided to hone in on 1968. As a lifelong Sinatra fan he already knew Ol’ Blue Eyes had recorded My Way in 1968, but it became clear a host of other great songs were charting that year as well.
In his show Williams covers some familiar territory – he won plaudits playing Sinatra in UK and international productions of The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas. He also explores new ground by putting his own stamp on the music of rock legends Led Zeppelin.
The Grimsby-born singer says: “I saw Robert Plant at Glastonbury in 2014 and he opened his set with Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. It was one of the most astonishing things I’ve seen. I’d never really listened to much Led Zeppelin before as I live in this easy listening bubble of martinis and bossa novas. But after seeing Plant I really got into it. Led Zeppelin’s first UK album was recorded in 1968 and Babe I’m Gonna Leave You is the second track.
“It was originally a folk song sung by Joan Baez. It has a very simple, circular pattern which somehow adds to the agony of it. The first day I rehearsed it with my pianist, the sky went black, the heavens opened and thunder was cracking – talk about drama. When I do it live I play a recording of thunder to recreate the moment when I first explored the song.”
Gary Williams Celebrates 1968 is on at Brasserie Zedel, London, on 23, 24 and 26 May, at 7pm. CLICK HERE for tickets.