Jane McDonald

PLUCKED from the nightclub and cruise ship circuit and catapulted to international stardom, singer Jane McDonald seemed to have it all.

After being spotted back in 1997 on the BBC documentary series The Cruise she suddenly found herself being fast-tracked to stardom.

Today, as she effectively relaunches her career with a new album and a 45-date UK tour which brings her to the Bournemouth Pavilion tomorrow night (January 13), she says she realises just how much of a helter-skelter ride her journey to the bright lights was.

In the wake of The Cruise, Jane hosted her own Saturday night TV show, enjoyed record-breaking concert tours, best-selling albums and even wrote an autobiography.

The city fathers in Las Vegas were so impressed by her cabaret show at the MGM Grand that they gave her the key to the city. It was seriously impressive stuff for a girl who once worked as a junior clerk in a furniture shop in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

As has been lavishly documented, things went badly wrong when Jane's marriage to her personal manager Henrik broke down. The pair's romance had been a key factor in the success of The Cruise. Millions of viewers had watched them prepare for marriage and later tuned in to watch footage of their wedding in the sun on an idyllic beach in the Virgin Islands. Their relationship could not have been more public and Jane says that the split when it came was devastating.

It took away her confidence and, worse still, it took away her will to sing.

"When Henrik left he took my voice," she told me. "For someone who sings all the time that was really frightening. I was distraught. This was a man I adored, who I believed I would be with forever. Yet the shock of thinking I couldn't sing any more was actually worse than losing my husband."

Today Jane, who admits that she spent months "rocking in the corner in my pyjamas" now says: "A bit of tragedy in my life has probably made me a better singer and with the songs I'm singing and the writing I've done, maybe I should ring him up and thank him.

"The past year or so has been quite a revelation. I had to reach rock bottom to appreciate what I've got. And now I've reached a plateau in my life and I'm the happiest I've ever been. Even when I think back to what my marriage was like I'm really glad it's over. I've learnt an awful lot and I don't regret one part of it. I'm glad Henrick left me when he did and I really do wish him well."

Her new album You Belong To Me - A Salute to the Great Ladies of Song is, as its title suggests, a tribute to the classic female singers of the '50s and '60s. Songs made famous by Dusty Springfield, Connie Francis, Shirley Bassey, Vickie Carr and Eydie Gorme - the singers Jane heard on the radio when she was growing up.

There are also four self-penned McDonald originals including one, I See It In Your Eyes, which was directly inspired by the break-up of her marriage.

"It was like therapy, writing that. I wept buckets but felt so much better for it," she says.

She says the split forced her to take a long, hard look at herself and reassess her life and career. She now admits that she wasn't prepared for the level of fame that was suddenly thrust upon her.

"I seemed to have everything I'd ever dreamed of but to be perfectly honest I was uncomfortable. Suddenly going from being a club and a cruise ship singer to having your own Saturday night TV show and having a platinum number one album isn't easy.

"What made me so popular on The Cruise was just being me but everyone was suddenly trying to change everything and what was worse was that I had no say in the matter.

"Seven years on I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. I've grown into the artist I am now and I'm really enjoying myself."

Her return to touring and recording, she says, was only able to happen after she gradually emerged from her darkest moments. I put my career on hold because I desperately needed to sort my head out. I was in a terrible state but eventually one day I woke up and started to feel better."

Jane McDonald brings her You Belong To Me tour to the Bournemouth Pavilion tomorrow night. The album You Belong To Me - A Salute to the Great Ladies of Song is released on January 24.

© Jeremy Miles 2022