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“Downtown” is a pop song composed by Tony Hatch following a first-time visit to New York City. It was his original intention to present it to The Drifters, but when British singer Petula Clark heard the incomplete tune, she proposed that if he could write lyrics to match the quality of the melody, she would be interested in recording it.

Thirty minutes before the song was scheduled to be recorded, Hatch was completing the lyrics in the studio toilet. “Downtown” was released in late 1964 and became a best seller in English, French, Italian, and German versions, topping music charts worldwide (with 3 million copies sold in the US alone) and introducing Clark, who had been a popular recording artist and actress in Europe for nearly 20 years, to the American record-buying public. She continued her success in the United States with a string of fifteen consecutive Top 40 hits.

“Downtown” was the first song by a British female artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart and went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Rock and Roll Song. It was enrolled in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

Clark re-recorded the song three times, in 1976 (with a disco beat), in 1984 (with a new piano and trumpet intro that leads into the song’s original opening), and in 1996. In addition, the original 1964 recording was remixed and re-released in 1988, 1999, and 2003. Clark, who in the early 1960s maintained a concurrent non-English musical career throughout Europe, also recorded French, German and Italian versions in 1964. While the German version retained the original title, the French version was retitled Dans le Temps and the Italian version was called Ciao Ciao.

Following 9/11, New York City adopted Clark’s version of “Downtown” as the theme song for a series of commercials encouraging tourism to Lower Manhattan. The song has been used by other metropolitan areas — including Chicago, Indianapolis, and Singapore — for promotional purposes as well.

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