David Essex (born July 23, 1947) is an English vocalist, songwriter, and actor who first recorded a string of pop singles during the mid-to-late 1960s. In 1973, he commenced a working partnership with producer/composer Jeff Wayne that yielded a string of lavishly orchestrated rock albums, including the singer’s melodramatic opus Out on the Street (1976) and the producer’s monumental musical version of The War of the Worlds (1978).
He was born David Albert Cook in Plaistow, Essex (now now Newham, Greater London) on July 23, 1947. His Irish mother, Olive (née Kemp), was a self-taught pianist. From age two, he was raised in Canning Town in East London, where he attended Star Lane Primary School. He initially aspired to be a pro football player, but as a teenager took up drums amid the flurry of local beat groups.
In April 1965, Cook made his vinyl debut as singer David Essex with the Fontana single “And the Tears Came Tumbling Down” (b/w “You Can’t Stop Me From Loving You”), both sides written by Perry Ford. Later that year, he covered the James Mitchell number “Can’t Nobody Love You,” recorded earlier by Solomon Burke (b/w “Baby I Don’t Mind”).
Essex cut two further Fontana singles in 1966: “Thigh High” (b/w “De Boom Lay Boom”) and the Ray Charles chestnut “This Little Girl of Mine,” recorded earlier by the Everly Brothers (b/w “Brokenhearted”).
He cut his next two singles for Uni in 1967/68: the Beatles cover “She’s Leaving Home” (b/w “He’s a Better Man Than Me”) and Randy Newman’s “Love Story” (b/w “Higher Than High”).
In 1968, Essex cut the Pye single “Just for Tonight” (b/w “Goodbye”), produced by Tony Macaulay. He rounded his ’60s singles phase with two 1969 Decca releases: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (b/w “Is It So Strange”) and “That Takes Me Back” (b/w “Lost Without Linda”), both produced and written by the team of Arnold, Martin, and Morrow under the musical direction of Nicky Welsh.
Essex launched his acting career with a bit part (Man in Chemist Shop) in the 1971 British thriller Assault. That same year, he was cast as the lead in the stage musical Godspell. In 1972, he played Ronnie Briggs in the English crime-drama All Coppers Are….
- Rock On (1973)
- David Essex (1974)
- All the Fun of the Fair (1975)
- Out on the Street (1976)
- Gold and Ivory (1977)
- Imperial Wizard (1979)
- Hot Love (1980)
- Be-Bop the Future (1981)
- Stage-Struck (1982)
- The Whisper (1983)
- This One’s for You (1984)
- Centre Stage (1986)
- Touching the Ghost (1989)
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