Veteran singer/songwriter and entertainer Kenny Lynch’s CV reads like the history of British Light Entertainment itself in a glittering career spanning over half a century. Beginning his career as support for US bands including The Drifters, Kenny was quick to master the transatlantic sound which catapulted him into the 1960’s music scene. Touring with The Drifters was an invaluable experience and gave Kenny his first top ten record in 1962 with Up On The Roof, something which happened completely unexpectedly following his record label releasing it without his knowledge. To his surprise, the song entered the charts at Number 7 and the rest is history.
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Kenny’s rise to fame coincided with the height of the Merseybeat phenomenon and his songwriting ability was used to pen many hits for some of the stars of this musical revolution. In 1966 Kenny wrote Cilla Black’s Number One record Love’s Just a Broken Heart. This was the start of a successful friendship which would last up until Cilla’s untimely death in 2015 and Kenny continued to write hits for Cilla and became her second most prolific songwriter behind Lennon and McCartney. In later life, Kenny would become neighbors with the sixties icon and would often frequented her abode for an afternoon of champagne and daytime television…what better way to enjoy a deserving retirement?!
Cilla wasn’t the only entertainment icon to be associated with Kenny during his long and distinguished career. Meeting Jimmy Tarbuck in the early sixties was a landmark and they were both quick to realise the enormous chemistry between them and thus began a long and successful partnership which transcended the screen. Bruce Forsyth was another entertainment icon which completed this trio and Kenny’s stories surrounding the many misdemeanors which occurred between them have become part of British entertainment folklore. This was assisted by a shared love for golf which united all of them and brought them into contact with some of the most famous people of all time including Bing Crosby and Sean Connery. Frequently criticised by modern performers for being slightly clicky and nepotistic, this generation worked, played and sometimes lived together but the real winners were the audience who felt like they were part of the friendship circle.
As a performer, Kenny is an extremely accomplished singer and entertainer yet is quick to realise the significant difference between him and his showbiz pals. Developing such close relationships with the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck forced Kenny to realise the true extent of responsibility which goes into being one of Britain’s biggest stars and the many sacrifices they had to make. Kenny was just content with doing his own thing and achieving success within his own field without coping with the pitfalls of fame. Yet for any budding entertainment historian such as myself, Kenny Lynch is an icon of British showbiz who should be celebrated in the same vein as the legendary figures who have surrounded his career.
In 1969 Kenny added yet another name to the growing list of icons whom he had the pleasure to work with. Cast as factory worker Kenny in Johnny Speight’s controversial ITV sitcom Curry and Chips Kenny starred alongside Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes as they attempted to satirise attitudes towards racism in the 1960’s. Yet it seemed that the British audience wasn’t ready for something so forward thinking for its time and even now the series is often criticised for its overtly controversial tone. For Kenny, the series is still funny despite the controversy surrounding it and realises the obvious spirit which Speight and Milligan intended. It’s just a shame that the public and critics didn’t realise this at the time.
Another of Kenny’s claims to fame came in 1973 when his good friend Paul McCartney asked him to appear in a photo shoot for his forthcoming studio album. Dressed in a boiler suit as a convict caught in a spotlight, Kenny was photographed alongside fellow cultural figures including Christopher Lee, Clement Freud and Michael Parkinson by the English photographer Clive Arrowsmith. As someone who isn’t keen on having their photo taken, this was an experience for Kenny and one which he has never repeated. But when you’re asked for a favour by a former Beatle, I’m sure you find it extremely difficult not to oblige. Unbeknown to all involved, the cover remains one of the most iconic photos in popular culture and over forty years on people are still talking about those famous faces in boiler suits.
In 2018 Kenny reunited with many other veterans of this generation including Su Pollard, Anita Harris, Mick Miller and Cannon and Ball as they traveled stateside for the ITV show Last Laugh in Vegas. Unaccustomed with the era of reality television, when asked to appear in the series, Kenny assumed that it was a documentary following the professional side of entertainment. Yet on arrival he was shocked to find camera crew all over the apartment watching their every move like a panto themed version of Big Brother. One evening, Kenny escaped from the constant surveillance and found a nice little bar in the heart of Vegas where he stopped for some much needed rest and recuperation until the producers found him and quickly whisked him back to the apartment. It was clear that reality television may not have been suitable for him.
Now into his sixth decade in showbiz, Kenny can pick and choose his career options and can regularly be found in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club putting his silky voice to good use. Beyond this, he’s just enjoying the fruits of his labour in what he hopes will be a long and fruitful retirement reflecting on what has been a glittering career in entertainment. Throughout his career, he’s been surrounded by royalty, international movie stars and homegrown entertainment legends, but Kenny Lynch is no shrinking violet and his talent rivals any renowned star of stage and screen. In the age where so many of our best loved stars are slowly vanishing, it’s great to know that this icon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It was an honour to speak to the legendary Kenny Lynch and wish him all the very best for the rest of his remarkable career in showbiz.