Georgia Brown (English singer)

Georgia Brown

Performing on CBS Television's Showtime, 1968
Born Lillian Claire Laizer Getel Klot
(1933-10-21)21 October 1933
Whitechapel, London, England
Died 5 July 1992(1992-07-05) (aged 58)
London, England
Occupation Singer, actress
Years active 1956–1992
Spouse(s) Gareth Wigan (1974–1981; divorced; 1 child)

Georgia Brown (21 October 1933 – 5 July 1992) was an English singer and actress.

Personal life

Georgia Brown was born and raised in Whitechapel. Her birth name was Lillian Claire Laizer Getel Klot and she was known as Lily. The daughter of Mark and Annie (née Kirshenbaum) Klot, Brown grew up in a large extended East European Jewish family. Her father worked in a textile factory and as a bookmaker. Brown attended the Central Foundation Grammar School. During the London Blitz, she was evacuated to Wales.


During her first performing career incarnation as a nightclub singer, she adopted the professional name Georgia Brown with reference to two of her favourite repertoire items, "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Georgia on My Mind". Brown was for a time a flatmate of singer Annie Ross with whom she formed half of a vocal quartet known as Lambert, Hendricks, Ross & Brown; but after a brief tenure Brown left the quartet, which became the famed trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

After an attempt at a recording career, with three overlooked singles released on Decca Records in 1955, Brown moved into musical theatre; one of her early credits was Bernard Delfont's Folies Bergeres at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Her breakout role was playing Lucy in the 1956 West End revival of The Threepenny Opera at the Royal Court Theatre, a role she repeated the following year when she joined the cast of the highly successful off-Broadway production.[1]

Brown's career role was that of Nancy in the musical Oliver!, a role she created in the original 1960 London production. When she first came in to audition for the musical's author and composer, Lionel Bart, he recognized her as a childhood neighbor, and greeted her as "Lily Klot". Her subsequent audition caused him to award her the role of Nancy. Bart had conceived that role in hopes of pop singer Alma Cogan playing it; however, it was reported that after he cast Brown as Nancy, he then composed the Oliver! numbers "As Long As He Needs Me" and "It's a Fine Life" specifically with her in mind. She reprised the role of Nancy in the 1963 Broadway production of Oliver!, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance, and her voice is heard on both the original West End and Broadway cast recordings.

On 9 February 1964, Brown appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with 18-year-old Davy Jones (pre-Monkees) recreating two scenes from the musical then showing on Broadway.[2] This happened to be the same evening that the Beatles made their first live US appearance on the show.[3] The role of Nancy in the film version went to Brown's friend Shani Wallis.

After a stint in Bart's Maggie May in 1965, Brown concentrated on screen work for more than a decade. She appeared as a singer in A Study in Terror (1965), followed by a number of films, including The Fixer (1968), Lock Up Your Daughters (1969), The Raging Moon (1971, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA Award), Running Scared (1972), Nothing But the Night (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), Galileo (1975), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) and The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1976).

She also appeared in several television dramas, including the BBC's highly acclaimed 1970 adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre's The Roads to Freedom for which she sang the theme song, "La route est dure". Brown made a memorable one-off appearance as a Bloomsbury radical in a 1971 episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, portrayed music hall singer Marie Lloyd in the 1972 serial The Edwardians, and took the role of Mrs Peachum in a 1975 biographical drama, one of four about Benjamin Franklin, The Rebel.

Despite her success in such roles, Brown was unhappy with the relative paucity of significant parts for women in television drama. She expressed her dissatisfaction to the BBC and was told to identify a series she would like to be in. Discussions followed between Brown and script editor Midge Mackenzie, and the pair devised the idea for a drama chronicling the struggle for women's suffrage in late 19th- and early 20th-century Britain. Brown enlisted the help of producer Verity Lambert, and the three women got approval from the BBC. In the course of realising the project, Brown and her colleagues found they had to remove a number of misconceptions and inaccuracies from the scripts written by male writers. Brown referred to these as "the male point of view".

Shoulder to Shoulder was first broadcast in six parts in 1974.[4] Brown (and others) sang the theme song for the series, "The March of the Women", and she took the role of working class activist Annie Kenney, alongside Siân Phillips and Angela Down as Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst.

The episode dealing most closely with Annie Kenney was written by Alan Plater, who had written the 1972 drama about Marie Lloyd (played by Brown) and her involvement in the 1907 music hall artistes' strike, in The Edwardians. Shoulder to Shoulder remains highly regarded as an attempt to convey an important episode both of feminist history and of Britain's history of dissent and civil disobedience. In 1974 she appeared on BBC TV's The Good Old Days, recreating more music hall performances; she had already in 1961 recorded an album of old-time music hall songs with the Ted Heath Band, entitled A Little of What You Fancy.[5]

Brown returned to Broadway to join the cast of the long-running revue Side by Side by Sondheim in 1977. Two years later she created the title role in Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's unsuccessful musical Carmelina. She toured Britain in Georgia Brown and Friends, then brought the revue to New York for a limited run in 1982. Five years later, the Gilbert Becaud musical Roza, under the direction of Hal Prince, closed after only twelve performances, but her performance of Mrs. Peachum in the 1989 revival of The Threepenny Opera earned her another Tony nomination.[6]

In the 1980s she took the lead role of Dorothy Brock in Gower Champion's musical 42nd Street at Drury Lane, London. Brown can also be heard on the charity tribute CD Mack & Mabel in Concert (1988) in which she sings "Time Heals Everything". In her later years she limited herself to concerts, cabaret appearances, and guest spots on television series such as Great Performances, Murder, She Wrote and Cheers, with Cheers probably gaining Brown her highest US profile: she earned an Emmy Award nomination for her role as Carla Tortelli's spiritual adviser Madame Lazora in 1990, and reprised the role in 1991. She made two appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation ("New Ground" and "Family") portraying Helena Rozhenko, Worf's adoptive mother.

In addition to a number of original cast albums, Brown recorded several solo albums, including Georgia Brown Sings Kurt Weill (Decca LK4509, accompaniment directed by Ian Fraser) and Georgia Brown Sings Gershwin.

Personal life

In 1974 Brown married producer Gareth Wigan, with whom she had been involved for at least seven years; the couple married in order to expedite the immigration of themselves and their son Jonathan (then aged six) to the US. Brown and Wigan separated in 1979, with their divorce only becoming final in 1981 after protracted legal wrangling.


Brown died at the age of 58 in London on 5 July 1992. Although she had become a permanent US resident and lived in Hollywood, she had flown to London to appear on the bill for a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr held that week at the Drury Lane Theatre. Before the date of the tribute she became ill, and underwent emergency surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction at Charing Cross Hospital where she died from complications. She was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.


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