Listen hun, I know you're dumb,
But that's OK, you don't have to look so glum.
Most Britons above a certain age are familiar with the song 'Lucky Stars' by Dean Friedman. It was a top ten hit in the UK singles chart in September 1978. It's also regarded by many people as one of the tackiest songs ever recorded, including Sir Tim Rice who regards it in very low esteem as being one his least favourite songs of all time.
What most people don't know, however, is the identity of the female vocalist with the incredible voice who duetted with Dean on the song. Although not named on the single itself, Denise Marsa did receive credits for it on Dean Friedman's album Well Well Said the Rocking Chair from which 'Lucky Stars' was taken, as well as being credited for backing vocals on several other songs from the album.
Denise is, and had been before meeting Dean Friedman, a singer and songwriter. Born in Trenton, New Jersey, she moved to New York City in the mid-1970s to further her chances in the music business. Denise soon recruited some local musicians and formed her own band, and as lead singer and keyboard player was performing in a small club one night when approached by Dean Friedman and invited to sing on his next album.
While not being too well known in his native America, Dean had enjoyed a small degree of recognition in the UK with his song 'Ariel', and when Well Well Said the Rocking Chair was released, the first single taken from it was the mournful ballad 'Lydia'.
When 'Lucky Stars' was put out as a single however, it raced up the UK charts, reaching number three with sales of over 250,000 - a fact some may find hard to swallow given the song's reputation for naffness.
Despite a national tour with Dean, and appearances on the BBC's chart show Top of the Pops, Denise's identity remained largely unknown by the majority of those who bought the single, and as Dean Friedman's own star began to wane1 she gradually became known as 'The Mystery Voice' or 'The Mystery Lady' from 'Lucky Stars'.
As things quietened down, Denise returned to her apartment in Greenwich Village, and continued writing songs and playing venues around New York City and its suburbs. During this time she also worked with all-girl band The Flirts, singing lead vocals on their song 'Helpless (You Took my Love)' - a big hit in New York dance clubs in 1984.
By now, Denise had signed a publishing deal with one of the biggest and most well-known music companies, Warner-Chappell. They decided that on the back of her success with 'Lucky Stars', it would be a good idea if she were to move to the UK, and in June 1984 she arrived in London.
For the next five years, Denise concentrated on songwriting, as well as recording many of her own songs2, including three with producer Greg Walsh, who was best known for the work he had done a few years earlier with Heaven 17. However, longing for her beloved New York City, Denise decided to move back there in September 1989, and once again settled down to writing and playing shows with a new group of musicians.
Two fruitful years passed when once again at the suggestion of her publishing company, Denise moved to Los Angeles, California in 1991. Once again forming a band, Denise continued writing and playing in local clubs, which occasionally she still does, although you're unlikely to ever hear her reprise 'Lucky Stars'.
After recording a CD and releasing it herself, Denise decided to form her own music company, Key Media Group. Originally it was intended as a one-artist label - that artist being Denise herself, but as she has become more widely known in the Los Angeles music community, Denise has contracted other artists to the company.
It's quite possible that in another ten years, the 'Mystery Lady' from 'Lucky Stars' could be better known as the head of one of LA's big recording labels.
'Lucky Stars' has a revival
During the mid 1990s, Gaby Roslin - presenter of the morning UK TV show The Big Breakfast - developed something of a fixation with Dean Friedman and with this song in particular, declaring herself a big fan. Interviews (by phone) were arranged with a number of people involved in creating the record, including Denise herself, and in December 1994 the producers of the show spirited Dean into the studio and wrapped him up in a huge box meant to look like a Christmas present for Gaby. Read Dean's diary account of that morning.
And we can thank our lucky stars,
That we're not as smart as we'd like to think we are.