David Essex Garrick Mark Hillary Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) cropped
It's often said that someone can be aged by the actor they know as Doctor Who, and perhaps the same can be said of which David Essex you know. He's a chart-topping singer and songwriter, actor on screen and stage, and writer of books and musicals. Over four decades of stardom and still going strong, so what's his secret? In his own words, he says,

The British like to pigeonhole you, but I will keep popping out of different holes.

1970's David

Godspell:
Prior to landing the lead role in Godspell in 1971, David was a struggling musician playing drums in a blues band. He was cleaning windows and driving a lorry just to make ends meet, and then his manager suggested making the switch to acting. Out of thousands of hopefuls at the auditions, 23-year-old David was selected to play Jesus.

I asked the director should I grow a beard, he said no we play Jesus as a red-nosed clown! Godspell for me and an ensemble cast of sparkling talent was a truly wonderful experience which turned me into an overnight success.

That'll Be the Day and Stardust:

In 1973, David appeared in the stage version of Tommy and his stage acting talents landed him the lead role in the film That'll Be the Day, which led to Stardust, the sequel released in 1974. He was now a star of stage and screen, but he was also writing music. During the filming of That'll Be The Day, he wrote ‚Rock On‚ in the hope that it would become part of the film's soundtrack. It was rejected as 'too strange' but in 1975, David recorded it anyway. It reached No.3 in the UK and rocketed all the way to No.1 in the US.
Gonna Make You a Star and Essex Mania:

But, by 1974, David already had a No.1 hit record in the UK. He was now a star of stage and screen, and a popstar and Essex Mania was in full swing. 'Gonna Make You a Star' was riding high at the top of the charts and posters of David were now on millions of bedroom walls around the country. Young girls were throwing themselves at his feet wherever he went, and he has said in interviews,

I've still got Blu-Tack on my shoulders‚ I just couldn't believe the hysteria. To say I wasn't comfortable with the adulation is an understatement. My ears used to ring for about two hours after a concert from all the high-pitched screaming. But, I never had knickers thrown at me.

Hold Me Close:
The release of Hold Me Close‚ in 1975 gave David his second No.1 hit, but he didn't settle for pop superstardom, returning to the musical theatre stage in 1976 to star in Evita. Oh What a Circus from the Evita soundtrack was released in 1978, giving David another Top 3 hit.

1980's David

The stardom of the 1970s led to a lifestyle of excess and a bad boy image, but David continued to 'pop out of different holes' in the 80s.
Silver Dream Machine:

In 1980, he starred in the motorcycle film Silver Dream Machine, and the title track took him to No.4 in the charts. As a keen motorcyclist, he also waived his fee for advertising the new Triumph Bonneville in the same year.

Mutiny!

In 1981, David demonstrated his straight acting skills in the stage play Childe Baron, and then in 1982, he was back in the charts with a Winter's Tale, It reached No.2 ‚ and has been a regular feature on the radio around Christmas time ever since.

In 1985, David popped out of a new hole as co-writer and star of his own West End musical, Mutiny! Two songs from the score gave him two more hits, proving the point that he couldn't be pigeonholed.

The River:
David added small screen acting to his list of ‚ 'pigeon-holes', starring in the popular TV series The River in 1988.

The 1990's and Beyond

His career on stage and in the charts continued throughout the 90s, with his 'Greatest Hits' album going gold. In 1999, he received an OBE for services to stage, screen and music, along with his charitable work. He says,

That was a big day. I took my two eldest kids, and me mum even went out and bought a hat. But it didn't change me in any way. I don't have headed notepaper with David Essex OBE on it.

In 2002, David's first autobiography, A Charmed Life, was published, becoming a best-seller. A further autobiography, a book of rhymes and a novel have followed, adding writer to the list of holes he has popped out of, not to mention his appearance as Alfie Moon in Eastenders in 2011. David is still touring, and while there may not be quite as much screaming these days, his fans are as loyal as ever.

Which David Essex do you know? Let us know in the comments below.

Header Image - Mark Hillary 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Flickr

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3 comments

Pauline Howard

I first saw David Essex at Hammersmith in the 70s he had the real thing backing him he had great hair great smile and very piercing blue eyes have met him.and he’s just lovely to.his fans .

Cazz Morton

i have followed David since 15th Sept last day of Godspell x and still going must have seen and met him over 1000 times he has been my life ans still is x cant wait to see him next year my 49yr of being behind him x woild love to do it all over again with my partner in crime Soo x out of my 5 kids 2 are called Verity and Essex x Rock on David Forever x

Janice Fletcher

I saw David in the 90s in his live show at The Barbican in York.He was fantastic,a true showman.His eyes still had the naughty boy twinkle,and he charmed the audience with every word.

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