What hasn’t she done or achieved in a career spanning over 40 years? What they don’t know about Tracey Ullman…
Tracey Ullman is the slightly amended stage name of Berkshire born comedian, writer, producer, Simpsons introducer and some-time singer Trace Ullman (b.1959). Tracey’s career kicked off at the very beginning of the 1980’s, in 1980 in the comedy series Mackenzie. She was soon noticed and took a leading role in A Kick Up The Eighties the following year. Tracey perhaps became best known as one third of Three Of A Kind with Lenny Henry and David Copperfield, the primetime Saturday evening sketch show that ran from 1981-83. After the sitcom Girls On Top, Tracey went to America where she would write and star in The Tracey Ullman Show from 1987-1990, which is these days best known for being the launching pad for a then very scruffy, scrappy cartoon series called The Simpsons. But while Tracey was on top of the TV ratings for a decade, she also briefly enjoyed a hugely successful singing career. Through her singing sketches on Three Of A Kind, Tracey landed a record deal and in August 1982, released the single “Breakaway”.
“Breakaway” was a cover of an Irma Thomas song from 1964 that found new chart success in the 1980’s when Tracey took her version to No.4 in the UK and No.70 in America. She followed this with a cover of a Kirsty MacColl song from 1979, “They Don’t Know”, which Ullman took to No.2 in the UK and No.8 Stateside as well as being a number one and a top ten hit in over a dozen other countries. By the end of 1983, Tracey had released her debut album “You Broke My Heart In 17 Places”, which gained a Silver disc in the UK and featured a third top ten hit in the shape of Doris Day’s “Move Over Darling”, the title track of her 1963 film. “Move Over Darling” was not released in America, instead they got “Bobby’s Girl”, the 1962 Marcie Blane hit that had peaked at No.3 there. 1983 was Tracey’s year for music, the same could not be said of 1984 as she recorded and released her second, and ultimately, her last album to date, “You Caught Me Out”. The album was not a commercial success, while of the four singles released, only Tracey’s cover of Skeeta Davis’ “Sun Glasses” was able to make the UK top twenty (No.18).
The album featured tracks from Madness (“My Girl”) and another Kirsty MacColl song, “Terry”, all of which were of limited commercial appeal. Tracey released a best of, “Forever – The Best of Tracey Ullman”, in 1985 along with the single “Shattered” and called it a day. Her only dalliance with the music industry since came when she performed on the song “According To Plan” from the soundtrack to the 2005 film ‘Corpse Bride’ and for the film ‘Into The Woods’ in 2014. Tracey divides her time between Los Angeles and London, where, after a gap of more than thirty years, she returned to UK television in 2016 with Tracey Ullman’s Show (2016-18).
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