An appreciation of the late Barbara Moore

❉ A tribute to the pioneering arranger and singer whose work has been recognised recently by Jonny Trunk, Bob Stanley and Lorraine Bowen.

Barbara Moore, who sadly passed away on 28 August 2021, was an arranger, singer, composer and musician whose pioneering work spanned the ‘60s and ‘70s and deserves wider appreciation.

Barbara was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire but brought up in London – her musician father Arthur Birkby had taught himself arranging in his mid-twenties and later worked with Joe Loss and Geraldo. She trained as a musician and lent her friend Dudley Moore (no relation) the piano he used in Beyond the Fringe. Barbara also started appearing as one of the Top of the Pops house band the Ladybirds providing what she called the “ooh ah’s” for artists such as Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw and Jimi Hendrix. Her vocals appear on Hey Joe and she provided the “skeletal” Hendrix with good English food whilst he was over here.

Barbara’s “scat singing” can also be heard on the 1962 version of The Theme From ‘The Saint’ which was recorded in two or three takes and which provided welcome long-term royalties.

The “pick a part, read it and sing it” nature of the work in the Ladybirds eventually did not meet Barbara’s ambitions and she made the transition to being a pioneering female arranger whilst still keeping her vocal work going with the Barbara Moore Singers.

She re-arranged Brian Fahey’s At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal (known to everyone as the theme to Pick of the Pops) for Brass Incorporated and arranged the backing vocals to Border Song on a young Elton John’s first album. When I spoke to her a few years ago she said she still got Christmas cards from Elton.

Barbara  also arranged the vocals for the I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing Coca Cola advert jingle and wrote Just Like That which was eventually used as the theme for the Terry Wogan show and can be found on the B side of At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal.

To library music fans her De Wolfe recordings are treasured particularly the rare and influential Vocal Shades and Tones which she composed and arranged herself. It’s a fantastic listen and is very hard to get hold of.

Barbara’s work has been recognised recently by Jonny Trunk, Bob Stanley and her friend Lorraine Bowen. Lorraine runs a fantastic Facebook page and Jonny and Bob both included Barbara’s tracks on their compilations (Fuzzy Felt Folk and English Weather). I spoke to Barbara a few years ago and I know she was extremely proud of her work (and her Yorkshire roots). It was extremely sad news but what a life she had and what great work she has left us.

❉ More information on Barbara Moore’s recordings can be found here:

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

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