Born over a fish and chip shop in Rochdale, in Lancashire, she made her first stage appearance as a child in 1905. Her professional debut in variety took place at the Rochdale Hippodrome theatre in 1910. In 1915 she married struggling comic Archie Pitt, who became her manager. Fields came to major public notice at the Alhambra Theatre in London's West End in 1925, making the first of ten appearances in Royal Variety Shows in 1928. She gained a devoted following with a mixture of self-deprecating jokes, comic songs and monologues, as well as cheerful "depression-era" songs all presented in a "no-airs-and-graces" northern, working class style. Fields had a great rapport with her audience, which helped her become one of Britain's highest paid performers.
Her most famous song, which became her theme, Sally, was worked into the title of her first cinema film, Sally in Our Alley (1931), which was a major box-office hit. She went on to make films in both England and America. In 1940 she married film director, Monte Banks, following her divorce from Pitt. However because Banks remained an Italian citizen and would have been interned in the United Kingdom, Fields was forced to leave Britain during World War II. Although she spent much of her time entertaining troops and supporting the war effort outside Britain, this led to a fall-off in her popularity.
After the war, Fields continued her career on a less active basis. She continued recording, but made no more films, moving more towards light classical music as popular tastes changed. She did a great deal of charity work, and established a home on the island of Capri. She made a final appearance at the Royal Variety Show at the age of eighty in 1978.