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Kim Wilde (born Kim Smith, 18 November 1960) is an English pop singer, author, DJ and television presenter who burst onto the music scene in 1981 with the New Wave classic "Kids in America". In 1983, she received the Brit Award for Best British Female. In 1987 she had a major hit in the US when her version of The Supremes' classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On" topped the charts. Worldwide, she has sold 10 million albums and 20 million singles. Starting in 1998, while still active in music, she has branched into an alternative career as a landscape gardener.
The eldest child of 1950s rock 'n' roller Marty Wilde (birth name Reginald Smith) and Joyce Baker, who was earlier a member of the singing and dancing group The Vernons Girls, Kim Smith was born in the West London suburb of Chiswick and attended Oakfield Preparatory School, in the Southeast London area of Dulwich. When she was nine, the family moved to Hertfordshire, where she was educated at Tewin and later Presdales School in Ware. In 1980, at age 20, she completed a foundation course at St Albans College of Art & Design and, as Kim Wilde, was signed to RAK Records by Mickie Most.
The RAK years
Wilde released her debut single "Kids in America" in January 1981. An instant success, it reached number two in the UK Singles Chart and scaled the Top 5 in other countries such as Germany, France and Australia. Although it achieved only moderate success in the US, peaking at number 25 when released in 1982, it is often regarded today as Wilde's signature song. Her debut album Kim Wilde repeated the success of the single, spawning two further hits in "Chequered Love" (Top 5 in the UK, France, Australia and Germany) and the UK-only single "Water on Glass". Her follow-up album was 1982's Select, led by the hit singles "Cambodia" and "View From a Bridge". Both were Number 1 hits in France and reached Top 10 positions in Germany and Australia. At the time, there was some controversy about Wilde's hesitation to do live concerts. Her first concerts in September 1982 took place in Denmark, before embarking on a UK-wide tour in October. Wilde's third album, Catch as Catch Can (1983) was a relative failure. The first single from the album, "Love Blonde", was another success in France and Scandinavia, but failed to have major success in other countries. The failure of the album led to her leaving RAK and signing with MCA Records in the summer of 1984.
The MCA years
Wilde's first MCA album Teases & Dares was again overlooked in her home country, but fared better in Germany, France and Scandinavia as well as scoring another German Top 10 single with "The Second Time" (which was Top 30 in the UK). The video for this song appeared in an episode of the 1980s TV hit Knight Rider in 1985. The second single, "The Touch", was not a commercial success, but the third single, the rockabilly "Rage to Love", made the UK top 20 in 1985. All of Wilde's songs up to this point, including all her major hits, had been written by her father Marty and brother, Ricky. On "Teases & Dares" she penned two songs. Meanwhile, Wilde had embarked on three European concert tours (1983, 85 and 86).
On her fifth album, 1986's Another Step, Wilde wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. The album's lead single "Schoolgirl" flopped in Europe and Australia, but Wilde's fortunes improved in spectacular fashion with the album's second single, a Hi-NRG remake of The Supremes classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On". After topping the charts in Australia and Canada and peaking at number two in the UK, it became a US number one single in 1987. With that hit, she became the fifth UK female solo artist ever to top the US Hot 100, following Petula Clark, Lulu, Sheena Easton, and Bonnie Tyler. Wilde later admitted to "not knowing the song terribly well" beforehand: "Basically we just went into the studio with a lot of energy and not a lot of reverence. We changed quite a lot of the song and I think that's why it was so successful. It was a very spontaneous idea." Her popularity, especially in her native UK, was revitalised and she scored further Top 10 hits in 1987 with "Another Step (Closer to You)" (recorded with Junior) and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (a Comic Relief charity single, recorded with comedian Mel Smith).
In 1988, Wilde released her biggest selling album to date, Close, which returned her to the UK top 10 and spent almost eight months on the UK album chart. It produced four major European hits: "Hey Mr.Heartache", "You Came", "Never Trust a Stranger" and "Four Letter Word", (the last 3 were Top 10 hits in the UK). The release of the album coincided with a tour of Europe, where she was the opening act for Michael Jackson's Bad World Tour. Wilde released her next album, Love Moves, in 1990. The album barely made the UK Top 40, and, although it was a Top 10 success in Scandinavian countries, it failed to sell as well as its predecessor and only spawned two minor hits, "It's Here" a Top 20 success in Middle and Northern Europe as well as "Can't Get Enough (Of Your Love)", her last Top 20 hit in France. She toured Europe again, this time opening for fellow Briton David Bowie.
A collaboration with Rick Nowels, who had produced hits for Stevie Nicks and Belinda Carlisle, resulted in the guitar-driven pop of the single "Love Is Holy" and the album Love Is (1992). The album's success was again limited to a small number of countries, though the single became another Top 20 hit in the UK, and the second single ("Heart Over Mind") also made the top 40. In 1993, she released her first official compilation album The Singles Collection 1981–1993, which was a success throughout Europe and Australia and the dancefloor-influenced single "If I Can't Have You" (a cover of the Yvonne Elliman song from the film Saturday Night Fever that was penned by The Bee Gees), became her last UK Top 20 Hit as well as a number 3 hit in Australia.
Wilde embarked on a huge "Greatest Hits" concert tour through Europe in 1994 and also toured Australia and Japan for the first time in six years. Her next album, Now & Forever (1995), was a commercial failure worldwide. Her single "Breakin' Away", however, was a minor hit, and the follow-up, "This I Swear", was also a minor hit in Europe. She released a single "Shame" in 1996. From February 1996 to February 1997, Wilde appeared in London's West End production of the musical, Tommy. After this, Wilde started recording a new album. However, there were problems with her record company – MCA Records had by that time become part of Universal Music – and legal problems concerning the songs. Subsequently, Wilde abandoned the album which remains unreleased.
Return to pop
On 13 January 2001, Wilde performed live for the first time in years, as a guest star in a charity show by the ABBA tribute band, Fabba. Since November 2001, she has toured the UK three times (and once in Australia during 2003) as part of the Here and Now Tour, an Eighties revival concert series, together with artists such as Paul Young, The Human League, Belinda Carlisle, Howard Jones and Five Star. New recordings also followed; in 2001, she recorded a new track, "Loved", for a compilation album which became a surprise hit in Belgium. She recorded the single "Born to be Wild" in 2002, and in summer of 2003 she had a major hit with "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime", a duet with German pop star Nena. The single was a Top 10 hit in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands and Switzerland.
In 2006, Wilde signed a new record deal with EMI Germany and released the first single from her tenth studio album in many countries across Europe, Scandinavia and Asia. "You Came 2006" charted Top 20 in most of these countries and became her biggest solo hit in Germany since 1988. The album Never Say Never included eight new tracks plus five re-worked previous hits and has charted in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The second single from the album, which was voted for by fans on her official website was "Perfect Girl", released in November 2006 and spent nine weeks on the German Top 100 singles chart. A third single, "Together We Belong", was released in March 2007 and a fourth single, "Baby Obey Me", was released in Germany as a remix featuring German rapper Ill Inspecta. In 2001, Wilde appeared on the first Here and Now Tour around the UK and repeated this, as the only artist, four years in a row. Also on different summer festivals and summer Here and Now events, she became a regular guest, including the Australian leg of the Tour. Since summer 2003, Wilde has appeared on numerous festival bills and concerts all over Europe with her own show. In the spring of 2007, she toured (The Perfect Girl tour) around Europe singing new material, and started a second leg of the tour the following autumn. Also in the spring and summer of 2009, she toured around Europe, playing a number of festivals and concerts. In early September 2009, a brand new single, "Run to You", recorded as a duet with Swedish rock band Fibes, Oh Fibes!, was released in Sweden. The song reached the Swedish Top 30.
In 2010, Kim signed a new record deal with Sony Music Germany. The label released her eleventh studio album, Come Out and Play on 17 August, with "Lights Down Low" preceding that as lead single. The album reached number 10 in Germany and was followed by a tour in Europe in February and March 2011.
Wilde's twelfth studio album, Snapshots, was released on 26 August 2011 and features cover versions of songs hand-picked from the last five decades. A double release of "It's Alright" and "Sleeping Satellite" was released on 19 August as the lead single. Two further singles failed to reach the chart. Kim toured in support of the album in Germany in March 2012.
Kim released a new studio album, Wilde Winter Songbook in November 2013.
Impact and recognition
Kim Wilde holds the record for being the most-charted British solo female act of the 1980s, with seventeen UK Top 40 hit singles throughout the decade (including her duets with Junior Giscombe and Mel Smith).
A number of artists have performed covers of Kim Wilde songs, ranging from pop and rock to dance and death metal versions. In 1991, Lawnmower Deth released their version of "Kids in America" as a single. The same year, English punk rock band Toy Dolls recorded a parody of "Kids in America" called "The Kids in Tyne and Wear" on their seventh studio album, Fat Bob's Feet. In 1995, indie rock band The Muffs recorded "Kids in America", which was featured in the hit film Clueless. In 2000, Canadian band Len covered "Kids in America" for the Digimon soundtrack. American pop star Tiffany recorded a version of "Kids in America" in 2007 for her album I Think We're Alone Now: '80s Hits and More. German eurodance act Cascada, recorded a version of "Kids in America", on their Everytime We Touch album in 2007. Other famous artists to cover Kim Wilde songs are Apoptygma Berzerk, Atomic Kitten, Bloodhound Gang, James Last and Lasgo.
Wilde has provided inspiration for other artists, including Charlotte Hatherley, who wrote a song about her entitled "Kim Wilde", and included it on her debut album, Grey Will Fade. East German punk rock band Feeling B also recorded a song called "Kim Wilde", which featured on their debut album. In 1985, French singer Laurent Voulzy paid tribute to Wilde in his song "Les Nuits Sans Kim Wilde" ("Nights Without Kim Wilde"). In her graphic novel Persepolis, Iranian cartoonist Marjane Satrapi has a comic strip titled Kim Wilde. In it the main character Marji, a young Iranian girl, sings "Kids in America" in the streets of the Iranian capital. Also, when her parents go on holiday in Turkey, they buy a poster of Kim Wilde and smuggle it into Tehran for Marji. Marji pins the poster on her bedroom's wall and practices emulating Wilde.
Wilde has been particularly successful in Germany and Switzerland with 9 of her 13 albums reaching the top 30 in both countries.
1996 RSH-GOLD Female Classic of 1995 (Germany)
1993 Bambi Award for "The Singles Collection" (Germany)
1990 Diamond Award (Netherlands)
1988 European Platinum Award as female singer who sold the most records across Europe (she shared this award with equally successful 80s singer Sandra)
1984 Golden Otto Best Singer (Germany)
1983 BRIT Awards - Best British Female Solo Artist (UK)
1983 Silver Otto Second Best Singer (Germany)
1982 Silver Otto Second Best Singer (Germany)
1981 Golden Otto Best Singer (Germany)
1981 Rockbjörnen - Best female singer (Sweden)
During her first pregnancy, an old interest in gardening resurfaced and she attended the famous Capel Manor college to learn about horticulture, so as to create a garden for her children. As a celebrity, she was asked by Channel 4 to act as a designer for their programme Better Gardens. A year later, she started a two year commitment with the BBC, recording two series of Garden Invaders.
In 2001, she (along with fellow horticulturist David Fountain) created the "All about Alice" garden for the Tatton Flower Show and was awarded the 'Best Show Garden' award. In 2005, she won a Gold award for her courtyard garden at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. She has designed and created numerous gardens during her involvement in the Better Gardens and Garden Invaders TV programmes and commissioned by individuals and organisations. She has also created gardens for Flower Shows across the UK and received, with David Fountain, an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for successfully moving (from Belgium) and replanting the world's largest tree in January 2001. After standing in its new location for six years, however, the tree was toppled by a storm in January 2007.
Wilde has written two books as part of her gardening career. The first, Gardening with Children, was released on 4 April 2005 by Collins publishers. Translations of the book were released at the same time in Spain, France, Denmark and the Netherlands, and later in Germany. Her second book, The First-Time Gardener, was released on 3 April 2006 (again by Collins), and is a beginner's guide to gardening.
Wilde broadened her eco-friendly image by taking on advertising jobs for various 'green' companies. For two years, she featured on adverts for the highstreet health food shop Holland & Barrett. She wrote infomercials for Bold and Timotei, and in 2008, she started advertising 'green kitchens' for Magnet.
Wilde currently presents Secret Songs on Magic 105.4 every Sunday between 10am and 2pm. In November 2013 she started a syndicated radio show called the 'Kim Wilde 80s Show' on two German radio stations: RPR1 and Berliner Rundfunk. In February 2014, Donau 3FM in Ulm joined in.
On 1 September 1996, Wilde married her co-star in Tommy, Hal Fowler, and expressed a desire to have children as soon as possible. On 3 January 1998 she gave birth to Harry Tristan. Two years later, on 13 January 2000, Rose Elisabeth was born.
As of 2008, her brother Marty Wilde Jr. is a landscape gardener and her sister, Roxanne, is a backing singer for Kylie Minogue.