Petula Clark’s “This Is My Song” was an international hit in 1966. It went to #1 in Great Britain, #3 in the U.S., and #4 in Canada. And the French-language version (“C’est Ma Chanson“)—also sung by Petula, who’s fluent in French—went to #1 in France.
This record is a great example of the cross-pollination of ideas and styles that happened regularly during the Sixties. Like other decades, the Sixties are often reduced to a quaint abbreviation; in this case, usually: long hair, flowers, love. It was all much richer than that. The music, especially, was increasingly inventive, melding new and old sounds. For instance, “This Is My Song” brought together two huge stars, one from the 1920s and the other from the 1960s.
The music and lyrics were written by Charles Chaplin (aka Charlie Chaplin, aka the Little Tramp). He wrote it for his 1967 comedy A Countess From Hong Kong , which starred Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando. By 1966, Petula, thanks to hits like “Downtown,” was one of the biggest singing stars in the world. She and Charlie had neighboring homes in Switzerland. Charlie had wanted popular 1930s star Al Jolson (The Jazz Singer), to sing “This Is My Song”. Unfortunately, Al had died in 1950. Being the biggest film star in history probably didn’t leave much time for things like reading the obituaries. So Charlie approached Petula. Petula thought the lyrics were too old-fashioned. She recorded it anyway, thinking it wouldn’t be more than an album track. It turned out to be one of her biggest hits.
Charlie included only an instrumental version of the song in the film. Maybe he just couldn’t get over the fact that Jolson was dead. Charlie made a cameo appearance in the movie as a ship steward. It was his last appearance on film. He died in 1977. Charlie’s hesitant collaboration with Petula Clark in 1966 resulted in a much bigger success than the movie and proved to be his poignant walk into the sunset.