Born in Scotland, Marie got turned on to music by her family's record collection, which included the hits of Tommy Steele and Teresa Brewer. She sang along with them at home, and by age nine, she was imitating them in public, backed by a local accordion group.
She didn't take her singing seriously though, and was about to enrol in hairdressing school when she met and joined a six-piece band called "The Gleneagles". As their spunky lead singer, she quickly became the focal point of the group. Their manager took to referring to her as "a lulu of a kid", and eventually that stuck as a more distinctive stage name. The band, in turn, retitled themselves "Lulu and the Luvers".
Their first minor hit in 1964 was called "Shout" and a year later, they scored a top ten hit in Britain called "Leave A Little Love". The group appeared on local TV and radio shows and toured Europe, including as a one time opening act for The Beatles. Lulu made her first film in 1965, the rarely seen, "Gonks Go Beat". The following year, she toured Poland, becoming the first woman to perform behind the Iron Curtain.
By 1967, Lulu had left the Luvers and was recording on her own for Columbia. Early in the year, she had two hits, "The Boat That I Row" and "Let's Pretend". She toured with The Beach Boys, and her international success had begun.
One night, after the show, director James Clavell came to see her and simply said, "You've got the part", to which she asked, "What part"? He explained the plot of the movie he was putting together, "To Sir, With Love".
In the film, Sidney Poitier plays a novice teacher assigned to a tough East London school. Slowly , he gains the respect of his rough gang of students, one of whom was a little Cockney kid, played by Lulu. "I didn't read for it or anything", she later recalled, "and I was afraid. All the other kids had been to acting school, and then working with Sidney Poitier!" But it came naturally. When I first saw the movie, I thought, 'You cheeky thing, Lulu'. I crawled under a chair. All I could do was watch myself. The second time I saw it, I enjoyed the whole movie". Lulu sang the movie title track while the credits rolled, condensing the entire movie plot into less than three minutes.
The song was released as a single on June 23, 1967, but didn't enter the U.S. charts until eleven weeks later. Once it did, it took off right away, spending over a month at number one, beginning in October. In November, it was certified a million seller, with eventual sales topping two million. Strangely, it was a complete flop in England, and marked the first time that a U.K. record reached number one without even grazing the British charts.
This odd pattern continued with later Lulu records, they either made the charts on one side of the Atlantic or the other, but seldom both. "Best Of Both Worlds" made the U.S. top 40 in 1967, while "Me, The Peaceful Heart", "Boys" and "I'm A Tiger" all made the U.K. charts in 1968. She entered the hit parade in England again in 1969 with "Boom-Bang-a-Bang", a song that got little notice in North America. Her final U.S. hit came along in 1970 with a song called "Oh Me Oh My, I'm A Fool For You Baby".
Lulu got her own British television show in 1969 and in 1970 she was a regular on American TV when she appeared on "The Ray Stevens Show". Also in 1969, she married Maurice Gibb of "The Bee Gees, although the union only lasted until early 1973.
Although the hit records stopped, Lulu went on to appear in nightclubs for many years, having crossed the "crayons to perfume" threshold many years before.
2005 found her writing material for a new album, as well as hosting her own show on Radio 2. In March, 2007, Lulu appeared as a celebrity coach on US TV's American Idol, where she also performed "To Sir With Love". Her complete Atco recordings, from 1969 to 1972, were released on November 12th 2007. The two CD set included previously unreleased material and demo versions of some of her well known recordings. In December of that year, she released a download single on iTunes in the UK called "Run Rudolph Run" and appeared in a Christmas television advertisement for Morrisons, the UK supermarket chain.
In November 2008, Lulu was included as one of a number of Scottish celebrities to be featured in the advertising campaign for Homecoming Scotland, a year-long event to encourage people around the world with Scottish heritage to return to Scotland. In January 2009, she began a four week run as a vocal coach and advisor on the BBC show Eurovision: Your Country Needs You, where she helped choose the singer to represent the UK at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. That July, Lulu guest presented on STV's daily lifestyle show The Hour, alongside main anchor Stephen Jardine. After appearing at an ABBA tribute concert in Hyde Park, in London in September, Lulu announced that she would be touring the UK in a Here Come the Girls alongside Chaka Khan and Anastacia, which took in 20 different dates.
In early 2010, Lulu performed the theme "The Word Is Love" in the movie Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!! and toured the UK a second time with Here Come the Girls with Anastacia and Heather Small. In November she hosted the BBC TV series Rewind the 60s, which focused on highlighting the social and political issues of the decade as well as music and interviews with personalities from the decade.
On February 26th, 2011, Lulu appeared in the second heat in the third series of Let's Dance for Comic Relief, where danced to Soulja Boy's hit "Crank That". In May she made an appearance on the ITV2 program Celebrity Juice and over the Summer she performed at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales and appeared on Chris Moyles' Quiz Night. In October and November Lulu took part in the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing, partnering with Brendan Cole, but was eliminated in the sixth week. On December 24th, 2011, she appeared on the ITV program Text Santa and on January 1st, 2012, Lulu reappeared in Absolutely Fabulous as herself after nearly 17 years as Edina's disgruntled client.