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Best Matt Monro Songs: 20 Greats From The UK’s King Of Easy Listening
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List & Guides

Best Matt Monro Songs: 20 Greats From The UK’s King Of Easy Listening

The best Matt Monro songs reflect the timeless brilliance of a singer whose voice was tailor-made for articulating the ups and downs of love.

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Born Terence Parsons in Shoreditch, East London, on 1 December 1930, Matt Monro was working as a bus driver for London Transport when he broke into the music business in 1956. Mentored by British celebrity pianist Winifred Atwell, who gave the singer his stage name, Monro’s career took off after landing at EMI’s comedy imprint, Parlophone, in 1959, where producer George Martin featured him on a Peter Sellers record, for which he performed a Frank Sinatra pastiche under the name Fred Flange. The future Beatles producer was impressed enough to offer Monro a record deal, and, in 1960, the singer scored the first of 13 UK hits with Portrait Of My Love, which still holds its own among the best Matt Monroe songs of all time.

Monro went on to achieve huge international fame – especially in Latin America, where he sold millions of records – but his career came to a premature end on 7 February 1985, when he succumbed to cancer, aged 54. Though he died too soon, the cockney crooner’s popularity endures, thanks to the many memorable recordings he made that still resonate with listeners around the world.

Listen to the best of Matt Monro here, and check out our 20 best Matt Monro songs, below. 

20: Michelle (1973)

Monro was no stranger to recording The Beatles’ songs, as his sensitive treatments of Yesterday, All My Loving and Here, There And Everywhere – all recorded during the mid-to-late 60s – attested. In 1973, he recorded the group’s Gallic-tinged love song Michelle with producer George Martin on the album For The Present. Monro made sure his young daughter, Michele, was present at the session, which resulted in one of the best Matt Monro songs of the 70s. “It was the first time I’d ever been to the studio with him,” she disclosed in 2019. “He signalled me over and held my hand as he sang Michelle. And that was the take that was released.”

19: This Is The Life (1966)

Co-written by Charlie Strouse, creator of the acclaimed Broadway musicals Golden Boy and Annie, This Is The Life was the title track from Monro’s first album recorded in Hollywood during 1966. With its lightly swinging gait – thanks to a fabulous arrangement by pianist/conductor Sid Feller, whose credits ranged from Ray Charles to Dean Martin – the tune comes across as a more upbeat companion song to Tony Bennett’s 1963 hit The Good Life (which Monro recorded in 1968).

18: We’re Gonna Change The World (1970)

Easy-listening crooners weren’t supposed to make records that espoused social revolution or offered political commentary, but Matt Monro bucked the trend in 1970 when he recorded this vivid number helmed by Manfred Mann producer John Burgess. Chiming with the countercultural zeitgeist, it tells the story of three women whose mundane lives are transformed by their participation in a feminist protest march. Kenny Clayton’s jaunty arrangement and Monro’s cheerful delivery belied the fact that the song had a serious message. Though it didn’t chart, the single had a big fan in BBC Radio One DJ Kenny Everett, who played it to death on his show.

17: Without You (1965)

This song, like the 1964 Monro hit Walk Away, was an Anglicised revamp of an Austrian Eurovision Song Contest entry written and sung by Udo Jürgens. Lyricist Don Black transformed the original, Sag Ihr, Ich Lass’ Sie Grüßen (Tell Her I Send My Regards), which took sixth place at Eurovision in March 1965, into a lover’s earnest plea for forgiveness. Despite Monro’s emotionally-charged vocal performance and Johnny Spence’s stirring arrangement, the tune peaked at No.37 during March 1965. However, Monro’s timeless performance of the song ensures it is worthy of inclusion among the best Matt Monro songs.

16: When Love Comes Along (1962)

One of Monro’s minor British hits – it peaked at No.46 during a three-week chart run in June 1962 – When Love Comes Along is a waltz-time song that demonstrated the singer’s ability to experiment with different musical styles. With Johnnie Spence’s tinkling piano figures counterpointing Monro’s majestic vocals, the song has a subtle but distinctive country inflection. The tune’s co-author was Galt MacDermot, who would go on to write the 60s hit musical Hair; Monro was introduced to the song by producer George Martin at a recording session. After learning it quickly, he performed it with such authority that it sounded as if he’d been singing it all his life.

15: Gonna Build A Mountain (1961)

Monro was initially reluctant to record this eminently hummable Anthony Newley-Lesley Bricusse tune from the successful 1961 West End musical Stop The World – I Want To Get Off because he wasn’t comfortable with the original song’s American-style gospel feel. Eventually, he and his trusty arranger Johnnie Spence found a treatment that suited him, revamping it as a swinging big-band number that more than earns its place among the best Matt Monro songs. It became Monro’s third and final UK hit of 1961, peaking at No.44 in September of that year.

14: My Love And Devotion (1962)

Distinguished by Johnnie Spence’s intensely dramatic intro scored for sweeping strings and low, growling horns, this Milton Carson song – Monro’s seventh UK hit – captures the singer at his most fervid in terms of his vocal expression. It’s a proclamation of adoration and fealty whose climax – in which Monro hits and sustains an impassioned high note – showcases his voice’s power, majesty and flawless technique. The song only reached No.29 in the UK charts in November 1962, and may have performed better had promotion not been hampered by Monro being ill; a bad back coupled with a bout of jaundice had left him bed-bound on the single’s release.

13: For Mama (19624)

A Top 30 UK chart entry for Monro, For Mama was first recorded in 1962 as La Mamma by its co-composer, French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, who sold a million copies of the record in Europe. Monro’s then manager, British songwriter Don Black, wrote English lyrics and gave Monro his tenth UK hit single with the song in December 1964. Though it peaked just outside the Top 20 in the UK and only spent a month in the charts, this vivid storytelling ballad, in which Monro’s opulent croon is framed by Johnnie Spence’s widescreen, Spanish-tinged orchestration (featuring tolling bells and high strings), it is now regarded as one of the best Matt Monro songs, inspiring the Shoreditch singer to one of his most commanding vocal performances.

12: The Lady Smiles (1967)

Monro’s croon is at its creamy, caressing best on this easy-on-the-ear non-album single, co-written by German easy listening maestro Bert Kaempfert. The first of Monro’s songs to make its mark in America’s Adult Contemporary chart – where it reached No.11 in March 1967 – The Lady Smiles began life as the B-side to Wednesday’s Child, a John Barry-penned soundtrack tune for the 1966 spy movie The Quiller Memorandum. Arranger Sid Feller enhances Monro’s sonorous tones with delightfully soft, shimmering strings, though the singer is said to have preferred a more understated, stripped-back arrangement he recorded, but which remained unreleased until 2020.

11: What To Do? (1967)

This forlorn, bittersweet rumination on heartbreak captures Monro at his romantic best. The waltz-tempo tune was a vocal version of Italian composer Riz Ortolani’s theme music from the 1967 movie Woman Times Seven, a comedy-drama starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. Monro’s voice soars over a gently pulsing musical backdrop distinguished by Sid Feller’s high strings. Recorded in Hollywood, the song reached No.22 in the American Adult Contemporary chart in August 1967.

10: Why Not Now? (1961)

With a melody adapted by co-writer David Greer from a traditional Spanish song known as Ay Ay Ay, Why Not Now? is about a young lover who urges his beloved to seize the moment and surrender to her passion. One of the best Matt Monro songs of the early 60s, it was radically different from anything the singer had released before, his smooth, honey-coated phrasing effortlessly navigating Johnnie Spence’s jaunty, Hispanic-tinged arrangement. It was Monroe’s third UK hit and rose to No.24 in the UK charts in May 1961; it also reached a respectable No.78 in America. Interestingly, the single’s B-side, the mellow but passionate ballad Can This Be Love, was preferred by some DJs and listeners.

9: Yesterday (1965)

This song, the first ever cover of Paul McCartney’s wistful ballad from The Beatles’ 1965 album Help!, proved to be Matt Monro’s final hit single for Parlophone. The singer decided to cover the song after seeing Paul McCartney perform it, minus the rest of The Beatles, on a British TV show called Blackpool Night Out in August 1965. George Martin, who had arranged The Beatles’ original track for string quartet, brought in a full orchestra for Monro, framing his voice with subtly shaded horns and rich strings. Though markedly different from The Beatles’ version, Monro’s take on Yesterday cracked the UK Top 10, reaching No.8 in October 1965 and becoming one of the best Matt Monro songs in the process.

8: Softly As I Leave You (1962)

A mandatory inclusion in any list of the best Matt Monro songs, Softly As I Leave You was the singer’s third biggest UK hit, and a song that began life in 1960 as Piano, sung by the Italian female singer Mina. Monro heard Mina’s version, was hooked by its alluring melody, and persuaded songwriter Hal Shaper to write English lyrics the night before a recording session with producer George Martin. Shaper obliged and Monro nailed Johnny Spence’s hastily arranged track in a single take. It rocketed to No.10 in the UK and its success led to a host of other noted singers recording the song, among them Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and Elvis Presley.

7: My Kind Of Girl (1961)

Written by renowned British songwriter Lesley Bricusse, this blithe, Sinatra-esque swinger was first performed by Monro in a TV song contest called A Song For Britain, where it came second. It also gave the Shoreditch singer his first transatlantic smash, reaching No.5 in the UK and No.18 in America, where Monro became the first British singer to dent the US Top 20 since Laurie London scored with He’s Got The Whole World (In His Hands). The tune was later covered by Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr, and has more recently appeared in Michael Bublé’s repertoire.

6: Portrait Of My Love (1960)

After a series of flops for Decca and Fontana in the late 50s, Monro scored his debut UK hit in December 1960 with this, his second Parlophone single, helmed by producer George Martin. Monro was doubtful that the tune – an aching, romantic ballad with lush strings – would achieve any commercial success, but it spent 16 weeks in the UK chart, peaking at No.3. Written by British songwriters/producers Norman Newel and Cyril Ornadel, Portrait Of My Love was arranged for a 23-piece orchestra by pianist Johnnie Spence, who afterwards became Monro’s musical director. In 1961, the song picked up an Ivor Novello gong; in 1999, 14 years after Monro’s death, it received an American BMI award for reaching two million airplays.

5: Walk Away (1964)

This poignant break-up ballad was the perfect vehicle for Monro’s smooth but smouldering vocal delivery, and was the singer’s second-biggest UK hit, peaking at No.4 in September 1964. In January the following year, the song crossed the Atlantic and scaled the US pop charts, eventually hitting No.23. Walk Away was an English-language version of Warum Nur, Warum? (Why, Oh Why?) sung by singer-songwriter Udo Jürgens as Austria’s entry in the 1964 Eurovision Song Contest. More than earning its spot among the best Matt Monro songs, his version spent 20 weeks in the UK chart – the longest period for any Monro single in the British listings.

4: On Days Like These (1969)

US trumpeter turned composer and record producer Quincy Jones co-wrote this gorgeous summer ballad with British lyricist Don Black for the soundtrack he scored for the iconic British heist movie The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine. Helmed by George Martin and skilfully arranged by British pianist Kenny Clayton, On Days Like These never troubled the charts anywhere in the world but is now regarded as one of the best Matt Monro songs. Inspiring one of his finest performances, it is a nostalgic reminiscence beautifully sung in both Italian and English.

3: The Music Played (Alguien Cantó) (1968)

“I can’t speak Spanish, I learn to sing the lyrics phonetically,” Monro once confessed, though that didn’t seem to bother his legion of fans in Latin America, who bought seven million copies of Alguien Cantó and made it the singer’s first platinum record, in 1968. With its haunting melody, the song tells the story of an angry, jealous lover. Despite its Hispanic touches, it was Austrian in origin (it began life as Was Ich Sagen Will) and its co-writer was Udo Jürgens, who was also responsible for writing the Monro hits Walk Away and Without You. The English version of Alguien Cantó was a US hit in September 1968, rising to No.15 in the Adult Contemporary chart.

2: Born Free (1966)

No list of the best Matt Monro songs would be complete without Born Free, the memorable theme song to a movie about British animal welfare activists/conservationists Joy and George Adamson and their nurturing of an orphaned lion cub in Africa. Though rejected by the original movie director, who cut it from the score, John Barry and Don Black’s timeless song was later reinstated and won an Academy Award. Despite its popularity, Born Free failed to dent the UK charts but made No.35 in the US Adult Contemporary rankings in October 1966. It remains indelibly associated with Matt Monro.

1: From Russia With Love (1963)

Topping our list of best Matt Monro songs is one of the best James Bond theme songs: the iconic title tune from the second Bond movie, heard at the end of the film when the credits roll. Written by the eminent British composer Lionel Bart (author of the hit 1960 musical Oliver!), and spectacularly arranged by Monro’s dependable musical director, Johnny Spence, From Russia With Love rose to No.20 in the UK in November 1963. More importantly, the movie was the first in the 007 franchise to have a specific title song, and its success began a long tradition of Bond theme tunes that continues to this day.

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