Blossom Dearie was born on April 28, 1924 (or in 1926 according to some published sources), in East Durham, New York. Different sources state her given names variously as Blossom Margrete Dearie, Marguerite Blossom Dearie, or Margrethe Blossom Dearie. As a child she studied Western classical piano but switched to jazz in her teens. After high school Dearie moved to New York City to pursue a music career and began to sing in groups such as the Blue Flames (with the Woody Herman Orchestra) and the Blue Reys (with Alvino Rey‘s band) before starting her solo career.
She moved to Paris, France, in 1952 and formed a vocal group, the Blue Stars of Paris, which included Michel Legrand‘s sister, Christiane, and Bob Dorough. In 1954 the group had a hit in France with a French-language version of “Lullaby of Birdland“. The Blue Stars would later evolve into the Swingle Singers. While in Paris she met her future husband, the Belgian flautist and saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. On her first solo album, released two years later, she plays the piano but does not sing.
After returning from France, Dearie made her first six American albums as a solo singer and pianist for Verve Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mostly in a small trio or quartet setting. Dave Garroway, host of The Today Show and an early fan of Dearie, featured her on several occasions, increasing her exposure with the popular audience. In 1962, she recorded a song for a radio commercial of Hires Root Beer. As it proved very popular, the LP Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin’ Songs was released as a premium item that could be ordered for one dollar and a proof of purchase.
In 1964, she recorded the album May I Come In? (Capitol/EMI Records). It was recorded, atypically for her, with an orchestra. During this same period, Dearie performed frequently in New York supper clubs and in 1966 made her first appearance at Ronnie Scott‘s club in London. She recorded four albums in the United Kingdom during the 1960s which were released on the Fontana label.
Blossom singing the Rodgers & Hart Tune, “Thou Swell” from her 1956 Verve Album.
After a period of inactivity, Dearie recorded the album That’s Just the Way I Want to Be (containing the cult song “Dusty Springfield“, an ode to the British pop star co-written by Dearie with Norma Tanega), which was released in 1970. In 1974, Dearie established her own label, Daffodil Records, which allowed her to have full control of the recording and distribution of her albums. Dearie appeared on television throughout her career, most notably giving her voice to the children’s educational series Schoolhouse Rock!. Some of her pieces in this series were written by her good friend Bob Dorough, the jazz singer and composer. Her voice can be heard on “Mother Necessity”, “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives”.
“Here Blossom singing, the Schwartz – Dietz tune, “You Come From Rhode Island.” from the 1948 musical, “Inside USA”
-Takes Rhyme and poetic license to a new level!!
Songwriter Johnny Mercer, with whom she collaborated for her 1975 song, I’m Shadowing You, gave one of his final compositions to Dearie for the title song of her 1976 Daffodil album, My New Celebrity is You.
Her distinctive voice and songs have been featured on the soundtracks of several films, including Kissing Jessica Stein, My Life Without Me, The Squid and the Whale and The Adventures of Felix. She also recorded songs with other singers, including Lyle Lovett.
Blossom Dearie, Obit:
NEW YORK — Blossom Dearie, a classically trained pianist who transformed herself into a jazz singer with a unique baby-doll voice heard in New York and London cabarets for three decades, has died at 82.
Dearie died of natural causes Saturday at her Manhattan home, said her manager, Donald Schaffer. No specific cause of death was given.
“She lived for her music, and she lived to perform her music. She had impeccable taste,” Schaffer said.
Born April 29, 1926, in East Durham, N.Y., Marguerite Blossom Dearie dropped her first name to bolster a musical career that began with early training in piano and moved to jazz vocals. By the mid-1940s, she was a member of the Blue Flames, associated with Woody Herman’s orchestra and with the Alvino Rey band.
Dearie began her solo career in postwar Paris. With an octet called the Blue Stars, she recorded a French version of the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland.” She was briefly married to Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar and later signed a six-album contract with jazz impresario Norman Granz, the owner of Verve Records. The New York Times called the resulting albums cult classics.
Dearie appeared regularly at London nightclubs in the 1960s. She founded her own label, Daffodil Records, in New York in 1974, writing the music to lyrics by Johnny Mercer and others. She gained national attention by appearing on NBC’s “Today” show during its early years.
Dearie liked to poke fun at composers she thought pretentious or overrated. A favorite target was Andrew Lloyd Webber, responsible for the music for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and other hit musicals.
Her last record was the 2003 single “It’s All Right to be Afraid,” dedicated to victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She last performed in 2006 at a cabaret in midtown Manhattan.
She is survived by an older brother, a niece and a nephew.