Shirley was born of an English mother and a Nigerian farther in the dock lands of Cardiff. She first worked as a waitress and singer at her local pubs. Her first performance on stage was in the touring show Memories of Jolson, She later toured on the road to stardom in such shows as Al Reads Such is Life, on the West End. Shirley was spotted on TV by Johnny Franz who got her a recording contract in 1956. She had a hit the next year with The Banana Boat Song, and had a few minor hits. In 1958 she first appeared on stage in Los Angeles, USA and later that same year she appeared at the London Palladium. Her career really took off and she had a No 1 hit with Hands across the Sea.
During the 1060s she had a string of very successful hits including Ive Got a Song for You, Big Spender and the brilliant Gold Finger, from the James Bond film.
Throughout her career spanning 6 decades Shirley has picked up countless awards and high acclaims, in 1993 she received the CBE and in 2000 she, received a DBE, she is also in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful British female singer. Shirley has also received the prestigious Artist for Peace Award, from UNESCO for her tireless charity work.