Malcolm Roberts

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Powerful English vocalist who became a 1960s sensation in South America.
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Born in 1944 in Manchester, England, this powerful vocalist enjoyed most of his success outside the U.K. Malcolm Roberts studied interior design at a local art college, and went to music and drama classes in the evenings. After a spell with the National Youth Theatre as an actor, he appeared in several programs on U.K. television, including Coronation Street. In 1964, he understudied the part of Eric Dooley in Lionel Bart's West End musical Maggie May, and later took over the role. He also appeared in a Manchester revival of West Side Story, along with other diverse productions such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Julius Caesar (with Timothy Dalton). After a period out of show business, during which he worked as an ice cream salesman and a bouncer in a Soho strip club in London, Roberts was offered a contract with RCA Records. His first release, "Time Alone Will Tell" (the Italian ballad "Non Pensare Me"), entered the U.K. charts in 1967. He then relocated to the independent label Major-Minor and enjoyed a Top Ten hit with the Tobias Brothers' "May I Have the Next Dream with You"

In the late '60s, Roberts was a familiar figure on U.K. television, guesting on shows such as Words and Music, International Cabaret, and London Palladium Show. In 1969 he triumphed at the FIC (Festival Internacional da Canção) in Rio de Janeiro with Les Reed and Barry Mason's "Love Is All." The song became a smash hit in Brazil, and stayed near the top of the charts for a reputed six months, elevating Roberts to superstar status in that part of the world. For several years thereafter, he returned annually, playing to audiences of 50,000 or more. His popularity with the female population there was reflected in a bizarre incident in which 50 beauty queens are reported to have queued outside his dressing room for the privilege of being kissed by him. His success in South America generated interest from the United States, and Roberts appeared on Jack Benny's show in Las Vegas, and was also featured on television with Johnny Carson and David Frost. In 1972, he captained the winning British team at the Knokke le Zoute Song Festival, and found a fresh audience for himself in Belgium, Spain, Germany, and other parts of Europe. During the following year he relaunched his career in the U.K., attempting to present a more raunchy image. The sleeve of his new single, "Never Get Back Home," announced "A New Malcolm Roberts." In 1986, Roberts returned to the musical theater, and appeared as Alencon in Jeanne, Shirlie Roden's rock opera on Joan of Arc, at Sadler's Wells in London. He continued to divide his time between performing in the U.K. and abroad, particularly in Brazil, where he remained especially popular. Roberts died from a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 58.