Andrew Lloyd Webber says Shirley Bassey is the “biggest diva” he’s ever worked with – but insists she is “quite wonderful”.
The 72-year-old musical theatre legend has said he once hung out with the ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ hitmaker at a New Year’s Eve party, where she “fired” him from his seat at the piano after claiming he didn’t know how to play one of his own songs.
When asked who the biggest diva he’s worked with is, Baron Lloyd Webber said: “Well probably the biggest diva I’ve ever worked with, and that was only vaguely, was Shirley Bassey, who was quite wonderful.
“She fired me from the piano playing my own song. She said ‘It doesn’t go like that’. It was New Year’s Eve and we were having a wonderful New Year’s Eve party, her and Joan Collins, we had a sing-song at about one in the morning and Shirley sort of tempted to get on the piano and then she wanted to do ‘We Never Said Goodbye’.
“So I played it and she said ‘It doesn’t go like that’ and I said ‘It does’ and she said ‘No it doesn’t go like that’ so I said ‘I wrote it’ and she said ‘No it doesn’t go like that’.”
Lloyd Webber also recalled meeting music icon Sammy Davis Jr. – who passed away in 1990 – in Monaco, and admitted he had completely misjudged the ‘Candy Man’ hitmaker before meeting him.
The ‘Cats’ composer said he had dismissed Sammy’s music before really giving it a chance, and was blown away when he finally witnessed a live performance.
He said: “I was taken to see Sammy Davis in Monaco and oh my goodness, it’s one of those funny things isn’t it that I guess when you’re young you pigeon hole certain people, and I kind of had got Sammy Davis into my mind that he was kind of a ‘talk of the town’ type artist and I never really thought that I ever liked anything by him.
“And I went to this concert and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more humbled in my life. Because I just thought ‘I have completely missed this guy! And he is one of the greatest musicians and one of the greatest natural voices I’ve ever heard.’ He did one thing where he was singing a kind of jazz intro thing, the orchestra stopped and for about two minutes he was just improvising and when the orchestra came back in he was in exactly the right key and hadn’t moved key, at all.
“And I remember afterwards I just said to him ‘I have to apologise, this is the first time I've ever seen you live.’ ”
And Lloyd Webber’s star-studded address book doesn’t stop there, as he then revealed it was Liza Minelli who took him to the concert.
Speaking during an appearance on Jessie Ware’s ‘Table Manners’ podcast, he said: “Yeah Liza took me, she swept me up in a car and said ‘you’re coming to hear him!’ We were in France, we were down in the south of France and we went down to the Monaco sporting club where he was, it was pretty pricking impressive I have to say. Liza, I have always loved Liza, she’s great. I think she pretty much eats anything.”