Dana Gillespie is a singer and actress who has recorded with Elton, performed alongside Mick Jagger, and hung out with David and Angie Bowie. In her new book, Weren't Born a Man, she discusses them and shows off photos of herself with these personalities and many more, ranging from Jimmy Page to Art Garfunkel.
Dana was a teenager when she met the Yardbirds' manager, Giorgio Gomelsky. Upon learning that she was a songwriter, he urged her to get up onstage and sing her material at the Marquee Club. Having no band, the fledging performer strummed her Spanish six-string guitar, leading Giorgio to conclude that she needed lessons. He suggested Eric Clapton, who was then in the Yardbirds. Eric was willing, but his group's single had entered the charts and they were going on tour.
Dana did wind up with guitar lessons later--from David Bowie, who also encouraged her to continue with her compositions.
The writer met Reg Dwight when they sang on cover versions of Top 20 hits. She found him to be very professional in the studio, yet also amusing. She was surprised that he continued with the sessions even after Your Song became a chart-topper.
One of Dana's earliest cinematic projects was with Keith Moon. They became involved, but the movie was another story. In Weren't Born a Man, Dana admits she doesn't remember what they were filming and doesn't know if the footage ever saw the light of day.
In the seventies, she and Elton worked with Ken Russell, although not at the same time. Dana played opera singer Anna Von Mildenburg in Mahler. A year later, her colleague was cast as the Pinball Wizard in Tommy.
Both of them were friends with Marc Bolan. Dana was grateful that when her car was repossessed, Marc offered his Austin Mini Van. He once said he had a feeling that if he drove a minivan, he'd die. Sadly enough, the vocalist was killed in such a vehicle, although he was not the driver.
Another pal has been businessman Basil Charles. He owned the famous Basil's Bar on the island of Mustique for many years. Gillespie and Charles started the Mustique Blues Festival, which raises funds for the Basil Charles Education Foundation (they've aided over a thousand children with bursaries since 1996). One of the most memorable events was when Mick Jagger joined Dana onstage. Then a few years later, another Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood, turned up.
The writer also shares stories about members of her blues band. She had to fire Dave Rowberry for drinking too much, although she appreciated his talent. Elton did too, complimenting his earlier contributions to the Mike Cotton Sound. Another musician came late to a gig and the explanation was that he'd been bird-watching. Mike Paice wasn't pulling Dana's leg: He used to lead bird-watching tours and wrote about a book about his passion.
As for the entertainer's book, she has hinted there could be a follow-up. Meanwhile, she was interviewed by this website's Chief Editor, and will be the subject of EJW's next Cheryl's Specials.