Artist: Kiki Dee
Album: I’ve Got the Music In Me (Rocket)
If you watched the recent Elton John biopic (if you could call it that), Rocket Man, you may have been interested to see the scene with Elton John recording the duet Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with a female singer. As I’m writing this, I can’t recall if she was ever actually identified by name. If you didn’t already know, that singer was Kiki Dee and, if it wasn’t for Elton and his Rocket Records label, it is probable that few would have ever heard of her. Besides the huge hit she had with Elton John, her biggest hit was I’ve Got the Music in Me, a song that tends to land her on the one-hit-wonder lists.
Yes, she had a hit with Elton John. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart went to number one on both the U.S. and the U.K. pop charts in 1976. And, another duet, a cover of Cole Porter’s True Love (1993), for Elton’s Duets album, reached number two in the U.K. (no. 56 in the U.S.). Oddly, in the U.S. that would make Elton John and Kiki Dee a ‘one-hit-wonder.’ Strange, no? Nevertheless, I’ve Got the Music In Me, written by Bias Boshell, is really a great song and I’m sure you’ll recognize it. A bit disco but with a rock attitude, it really shows off Kiki Dee’s vocal ability and, make no mistake, she was a great singer.
Kiki Dee was born Pauline Matthews in March 1947 in Little Horton, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire. Her father, Freddie Matthews, after hearing her belting out pop hits in their home, and proud of his little’s daughter’s vocal chops, entered her in a local talent contest, which she won. Afterward, teenage Pauline began singing in local dance clubs. She sent demos to record companies and one of them reached songwriter Mitch Murray who got her a recording contract with Fontana in 1964, resulting in many singles and an album called I’m Kiki Dee in 1968. None of the songs had any chart success in the U.K.
Then, in 1969, she was signed to the Motown/Tamla label, becoming the only British white female singer to do so. Unfortunately, despite this achievement, success still alluded her. She spent some time in Australia and Africa singing in cabaret venues. Meanwhile, John Reed, head of Motown Records division of the U.K. became Elton John’s manager and when Dee returned, he introduced her to Elton who offered to sign her to his new label. She is thus often called an ‘Elton John protégé.’
I’ve Got the Music in Me was the third Kiki Dee single released from Rocket Records, from the album of the same name. If you see the song artist listed as “The Kiki Dee Band” don’t pay it much mind. The ‘band’ was studio musicians and was created for the purpose of touring. The song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1974.
Although she enjoyed decent record sales, as a solo artist, Kiki Dee had no other Top 40 hits. She had a few other songs in the Top 100:
- Love Makes the Word Go Round reached no. 87 on April 10, 1971
- How Glad I Am reached no. 74 on May 31, 1975
- Once A Food reached no. 82 on March 27, 1976
Her last recorded album was Angel Eyes, in 1987, with Columbia. She also did some acting during the 1980s.
I really did enjoy the scene in the movie that recreated the Elton John/Kiki Dee ‘recording session.’ This was actually a video they filmed and the movie does a pretty good job of recreating it, while taking some liberties with Elton’s hair, which was by that time much more sparse than the movie depicts. Watch the video for Don’t Go Breaking My Heart below. Now, If I was Elton, I never would have replaced Kiki with Miss Piggy.
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