Agnetha Fältskog

Agneta Åse Fältskog (born 5 April 1950) is a Swedish recording artist and entertainer. She became a household name in Sweden after the release of her début album Agnetha Fältskog in 1968, and reached international stardom as a member of pop group ABBA, which sold nearly 370 million records worldwide,[1][2] making them the second best–selling band in history and the fourth best–selling pop artists in history.[3]

Fältskog was born on 5 April 1950 in Jönköping, Småland, Sweden.[4][5] She was the first of two daughters of department store manager Knut Ingvar Fältskog (1922—1995) and his wife Birgit Margareta Johansson (1923—1994).[4] Her younger sister, Mona Fältskog Ericsson (1955), works as a nurse in Stockholm. Ingvar Fältskog showed much interest in music and showbusiness, whereas Birgit Fältskog was a very calm and careful woman who devoted herself to her children and household.[6] Fältskog cites Connie Francis, Marianne Faithfull, Aretha Franklin and Lesley Gore as her strongest influences.[4]

Fältskog wrote her first song aged only six, which was named “Två små troll” (Two Little Trolls)[7] In 1958, she started taking piano lessons, and also sang in a local church choir.[4] In early 1960, Fältskog formed a musical trio The Chambers with her friends Lena Johansson and Elisabeth Strub. They performed locally in minor venues and soon dissolved because of a lack of engagements.[4] At age 15, Fältskog decided to leave school and pursue a career.[4]

“Fly Me To The Moon”

Fältskog worked as a telephonist for a car firm while performing with a local dance band, headed by Bernt Enghardt.[4] The band soon became so popular that she had to make a choice between her job and her musical career. She continued singing with the Bernt Enghardt band for two years.[4] During that time, Fältskog broke up with her boyfriend Björn Lilja; this event inspired her to write a song that would soon raise her to media prominence, “Jag var så kär”.[4][6] At that time, Karl Gerhard Lundkvist, a relative of one of the band’s members, retired from his successful rock and roll career and began working as a music producer at Cupol Records. Enghardt sent him a demo record of the band, but Lundkvist showed interest in Fältskog and her song only.[6] She was worried because he was not interested in the band and they were not to be included on the record. However, she decided to accept the offer, and signed a recording contract with CBS Records.[4]

Her début album Agnetha Fältskog was released by the CBS Records in 1968 (see 1968 in music), and topped the Swedish Albums Chart on 28 January 1968.[4] She also submitted the song “Försonade” to Melodifestivalen, the Swedish heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, but it was not selected for the final.[6] Fältskog developed a career as one of Sweden’s most popular pop music artist, participating in a television special about pilots in 1969.[8] The same year, she released the single “Zigenarvän” about a young girl attending a Gypsy wedding and falling in love with the bride’s brother. Its release coincided with a heated debate about Gypsies in the Swedish media, and Fältskog was accused of deliberately trying to make money out of the situation by writing the song.[7]

“Sealed With A Kiss”

Her success continued throughout the late 1960s. She then met German songwriter and music producer Dieter Zimmerman, to whom she became engaged.[4] Thus Fältskog’s albums were reaching German charts, and Zimmerman promised Fältskog she would achieve great success in Germany.[4] When she went there and met with record producers, she refused to meet their demands, describing their chosen material as “horrible”.[4] Fältskog soon ended her engagement to Zimmerman and returned to Sweden.[4]

In 1970, she released “Om tårar vore guld,” which was perhaps her most successful song in Sweden before the ABBA period. This was in spite of a claim from a Danish composer that she had used 22 bars from his composition “Tema,” even though this had been written in the 1950s and had never been recorded. The case dragged on until 1977, when a settlement was reached and Fältskog paid the Dane SEK5,000. In 1971, Fältskog portrayed Mary Magdalene in the Swedish production of the international musical hit Jesus Christ Superstar.[6]

“Love Me With All Your Heart”

Fältskog met Björn Ulvaeus, a member of the Hootenanny Singers, in 1969.[5][6] Her relationship with Ulvaeus, as well as her friendship with Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson, with whom Ulvaeus had already written songs, eventually led to the formation of ABBA. Fältskog and Ulvaeus married on 6 July 1971 in the village Verum, with Andersson playing the organ at their wedding.[4] Their first child, Linda Elin Ulvaeus was born on 23 February 1973, and their son Peter Christian Ulvaeus on 4 December 1977.[5] The couple decided to separate in late 1978, and Fältskog moved out of their home on Christmas night, 25 December 1978. In January 1979, the couple filed for divorce, which was finalised in June 1980. Both Fältskog and Ulvaeus agreed not to let their failed marriage interfere with their responsibilities with ABBA.[4][5][6] The failure of their marriage inspired Ulvaeus to write “The Winner Takes It All“, one of ABBA’s greatest hits.[4][5][6]

In 1975, during the same period as her bandmate Anni-Frid Lyngstad recorded her Swedish number one album Frida ensam, Fältskog recorded and produced her solo album Elva kvinnor i ett hus. These albums were both recorded between sessions and promotion for the ABBA albums Waterloo and ABBA. Even though ABBA was already a number one act in Sweden by 1975, Fältskog’s album failed to reach the Top 10 on the Swedish album charts, peaking at #11. However, Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus did spend a staggering 53 weeks on the chart, even longer than any of the ABBA albums, and it also contained three further Svensktoppen entries for Fältskog: her Swedish language version of ABBA’s “SOS” (also #4 on the single sales chart); “Tack För En Underbar Vanlig Dag”; and “Doktorn!”. Except for the version of “SOS”, all the songs had lyrics by Bosse Carlgren and music by Fältskog herself. The album had been underway since 1972, when Agnetha started writing the songs, but it was delayed because of the work with ABBA and her pregnancy. In 1974, she and Carlgren agreed on a concept for the album; it should consist of 12 songs, sung by 12 different women living in the same apartment building, each having a distinct name, identity, etc. In the end, only 11 songs were put onto the album, and the concept was never fully developed.

“What Now My Love?”

Between the years 1968 and 1980, Fältskog had a total of 18 entries on the important Svensktoppen radio chart, starting with debut single “Jag Var Så Kär” in January 1968 (peak position #1) and ending with “När Du Tar Mig I Din Famn” from the compilation Tio år med Agnetha twelve years later, in January 1980 (peak position #1). The 18 entries, most of which were composed or co-written by Fältskog herself, spent a total of 139 weeks on the chart during this time, with the biggest hit being 1970’s “Om Tårar Vore Guld” (#1, 15 weeks). Fältskog also recorded the Swedish Christmas album Nu tändas tusen juleljus with daughter Linda Ulvaeus which reached #6 on the Swedish album sales chart in December 1981. Chartwise Fältskog was, therefore, by far the most successful solo artist of the four ABBA members, both before and during the band’s international career.[9][10]

Fältskog is also the only member of ABBA to have participated in Melodifestivalen again after having won Eurovision with “Waterloo” in 1974 – albeit only as a composer. In 1981 she wrote the ballad “Men Natten Är Vår” (“But The Night is Ours”) with lyrics by Ingela Forsman, but instead of performing the song in the contest herself she chose new talent Kicki Moberg. The single, which Fältskog produced in the Polar Studios with the same musicians as on contemporary ABBA recordings, was backed with the Swedish version of “I’m Still Alive”, entitled “Här Är Mitt Liv” (“Here is My Life”), a song which she herself had sung on ABBA’s 1979 world tour. Moberg’s recording of the song remains the only version to have been officially released to date.[11]

In the 1980s, Fältskog released three English-language solo albums. The records did well in Europe and Scandinavia.

At the end of 1982, she duetted with Swedish singer (and former ABBA backing vocalist) Tomas Ledin on a song called “Never Again“, which became a Top Five hit in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and South America. The song was also released in a Spanish language version, entitled “Ya Nunca Más”. In the summer of the same year, Fältskog starred in the hit Swedish movie Raskenstam, and received positive reviews for her film début. The film was also a blockbuster hit in Sweden.

“Dancing Queen” Abba

In May 1983, Fältskog released her first post-ABBA solo album, Wrap Your Arms Around Me. The album became a moderate hit in North America and Australia, and reached the higher regions of the charts across Europe, including No. 1 in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium and Denmark (where it became the biggest-selling album of the year), and No.18 in the UK. All in all Agnetha sold 1.2 million records of her first solo album after ABBA. Two singles from the album became big hits in continental Europe. “The Heat Is On” became a No. 1 hit in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, but only just scraped into the UK Top 40. The title track also reached No.1 in Belgium as well as the Top Five in the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa. In North America, the album track “Can’t Shake Loose” was released as the lead-off single, reaching No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 23 on the RPM Top 50 singles chart in Canada.

The same year, Fältskog was voted by the readers of Aftonbladet as “Best Female Artist Of The Year,” and received the Music Award Price Rockbjörnen.

Her next album, Eyes Of A Woman, produced by Eric Stewart of 10cc fame, was released in March 1985. “She is quite content to grace the works of various other lesser mortals with her immaculate, sugar-sweet voice,” wrote Barry McIlheney in Melody Maker. The album sold well in parts of Europe, reaching No. 2 in Sweden and the Top 20 in Norway and Belgium, but failed to match the success of Wrap Your Arms Around Me. Lead single “I Won’t Let You Go”, composed by Fältskog herself, however enjoyed considerable chart success in both Continental Europe and Scandinavia.

“Take A Chance On Me”

In 1986, Fältskog recorded another duet, “The Way You Are,” with Swedish singer Ola Håkansson, which became another No. 1 hit in Sweden. In mid-1987, Fältskog travelled to Malibu, California, to record the album I Stand Alone, produced by Peter Cetera and Bruce Gaitsch (fresh off Madonna‘s La Isla Bonita collaboration). Released in November of that year, it was a minor hit in Europe, except for Sweden where it spent eight weeks at No. 1 and became the biggest selling album of 1988 and entering the Top 15 in Norway. The single from the album, “I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Good-Bye)“, on which Fältskog duetted with Peter Cetera, was released primarily in North America, and became her second solo single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 93). It was also a Top 20 Billboard Adult Contemporary hit. Two tracks were also recorded in Spanish for the Latin American market; “La Ultima Véz” (“The Last Time”) and “Yo No Fui Quién Dijo Adiós” (“I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye)”).

After the release of I Stand Alone in mid-1988 Fältskog took a break from her musical career and completely withdrew from public life.

In December 1990, Fältskog married for a second time, albeit briefly, a surgeon named Tomas Sonnenfeld. They were divorced in 1993.

Former Dutch citizen Gert van der Graaf claims he had fallen in love with Fältskog at the age of 6, in 1974, when he saw ABBA performing “Waterloo” on Dutch TV. Since that day, Van der Graaf was obsessed with Fältskog. As an adult, he started to make trips to Sweden and found the area where Fältskog lived. In 1997, he moved from Holland to Sweden, determined to get in contact with Fältskog. He managed to buy a small house near Fältskog’s estate and also found a job in the area. Soon, he began to approach Fältskog during her walks in her neighborhood. Fältskog began a sexual relationship with him and finally invited him to visit her home – and co-habit with her.

“Fool Am I”

After about two years, Fältskog wanted to end the relationship and told Van der Graaf. After the relationship terminated, he began to send Fältskog many letters, called her relentlessly, and visited her estate frequently without invitation. Eventually, Fältskog obtained a restraining order against Van der Graaf. He broke the order several times and was eventually deported back to Holland. In 2005, the deportation order from Sweden ran out, and within months Van der Graaf was again sighted near Fältskog’s estate in Ekerö.[12]

In court, Fältskog was forced to admit that she had seduced him and Van der Graaf said that he “did not mean to stalk her” but claimed he was still in love with her and “couldn’t let go.”[13] Since the deportation, Fältskog has not reported any further contact from Van der Graaf. However, as recently as 2007, Van der Graaf was spotted at a play at which Fältskog was in attendance. When asked, Fältskog stated that she did not know Van der Graaf had been there and that he did not approach her.

In 1996, her autobiography Som jag är was published in Swedish (in English the following year as As I Am), followed by several compilation CDs of her Swedish and English recordings. Hardcore fans welcomed the autobiography, but critics panned it.

In April 2004, Fältskog released a new single, “If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind” (a cover of the song originally recorded by Cilla Black). It reached No. 2 in Sweden, No. 11 in the UK, and became a sizeable hit throughout Europe. “It is exciting to hear her voice, utterly undimmed, delivering a tellingly-titled song,” commented London’s Music Week. A few weeks later, the album My Colouring Book, a collection of Fältskog’s covers of 1960s classic oldies, was released, topping the charts in Sweden, hitting the Top Five in Finland and Denmark, No. 6 in Germany and peaking at No. 12 in the UK. The title song “My Colouring Book” is a cover of the song originally recorded by Dusty Springfield. “I love this record,” enthused Pete Clark in London’s Evening Standard, while Daily Mail pointed out that “it reveals a genuine affection for the era’s forgotten pop tunes.” The Times reviewer noted that “her voice is still an impressive pop instrument,” and The Observer shared the same sentiment suggesting that “time hasn’t diminished her perfect voice.” Reviewing the release in The Guardian, Caroline Sullivan wrote: “Agnetha Fältskog has a vulnerability that gets under the skin of a song. She may be cheating a trifle by including no original material on this collection of 1960s covers, but if anyone can do justice to the likes of “Sealed with a Kiss“, it’s her. The soaring sentimentality evokes Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw in their mini-skirted pomp, and I don’t say that lightly.” The release attracted major media attention across Europe, but Fältskog staunchly refused to be involved in any extensive promotion of the album (including personal appearances), and thus limited her public exposure to several short newspaper interviews, a few videos and a Swedish-language low-key TV special. Yet, the album managed to sell more than 500,000 copies worldwide, 50,000 of those in the UK alone. A second single release from the album, “When you walk in the room” peaked at No.11 in Sweden and also reached the UK Top 40.

“The Winner Takes It All”

Shortly after this release, for the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul thirty years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, Fältskog appeared briefly in a special comedy video made for the interval act, entitled “Our Last Video.” Each of the four members of the group appeared briefly in cameo roles, as did others such as Cher and Rik Mayall. The video was not included in the official DVD release of the Eurovision Contest, but was issued as a separate DVD release. It was billed as the first time the four had worked together since the group split. In fact, they each filmed their appearances separately.

In 2004, Fältskog was nominated for Best Nordic Artist at the Nordic Music Awards, and at Christmas of that year (for the first time in almost 20 years), she gave an extensive interview which was filmed by Swedish TV. Around the same time, Sony Music released a lavishly produced 6 CD boxed set comprising Fältskog’s Swedish solo career before ABBA (five original solo albums – 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1975 – and an additional compilation disc with bonus tracks).

In January 2007, Fältskog appeared at the final performance of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm (as she had at its opening in 2005). Together with ex-husband and former colleague Björn, she appeared on stage at the after show party held at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel. She also sang a duet, “True Love,” with Tommy Körberg of Chess fame.

In October 2008 a new compilation album, “My Very Best”, was released in Sweden. The double CD contains both Swedish (CD 1) and English language hits (CD 2) from her whole solo career, from 1967 to 2004. It successfully entered as #4 on the Swedish albums chart and was certified Gold within the first week of its release.[14]

On 4 July 2008 Fältskog joined former colleagues Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson at the Swedish premiere of the film version of Mamma Mia!, held at the Rival Theatre (owned by Andersson) in Mariatorget, Stockholm. Fältskog arrived with Lyngstad and movie star Meryl Streep, the three dancing in front of thousands of fans before joining the film’s other stars and Andersson and Ulvaeus on the hotel balcony for the first photograph of all four ABBA members together in 22 years.[15] The event made the front pages of newspapers around the world as well as being shown live on news channels.

In February 2010 ABBA World, an extensive multi-million pound exhibition, debuted at London’s Earls Court and included an extensive interview with Agnetha filmed in Sweden the previous summer. For the exhibition’s Melbourne launch, she recorded a light-hearted opening film together with former ABBA colleague Benny Andersson, shot in Stockholm in June 2010.

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube,

Quick Bio Facts:

Agnetha FältskogAgnetha Fältskog AKA Agnetha Åse Fältskog

Born: 5-Apr1950
Birthplace: Jönköping, Sweden

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Musician

Nationality: Sweden
Executive summary: ABBA

Husband: Björn Ulvaeus (fellow bandmember, m. 6-Jul-1971, div. 1979, two children)
Husband: Tomas Sonnenfeld (m. 15-Dec-1990, div. 1993)
Daughter: Linda Ulvaeus
Son: Christian Ulvaeus

Risk Factors: Smoking, Aviophobia

ABBA: The Movie (23-Dec-1977)

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Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook (born October 25, 1927) is an American singer and actress who first came to prominence in the 1950s after starring in the original Broadway musicals Candide (1956) and The Music Man (1957) among others, winning a Tony Award for the latter. She continued performing mostly in theatre until the mid 1970s, when she began a second career that continues to this day as a cabaret and concert singer.

During her years as Broadway’s leading ingénue Cook was lauded for her excellent lyric soprano voice. She was particularly admired for her vocal agility, wide range, warm sound, and emotive interpretations. As she has aged her voice has taken on a darker quality, even in her head voice, that was less prominent in her youth.[1] Today Cook is widely recognized as one of the “premier interpreters” of musical theatre songs and standards, in particular the songs of composer Stephen Sondheim. Her subtle and sensitive interpretations of American popular song continue to earn high praise even into her eighties.[2] Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Charles Bunyan, a traveling hat salesman, and Nell (Harwell) Cook, an operator for Southern Bell.[3] Her parents divorced when she was a child and, after her only sister died of whooping cough, Barbara lived alone with her mother. She later described their relationship as “so close, too close. I slept with my mother until I came to New York. Slept in the same bed with her. That’s just, it’s wrong. But to me, it was the norm….As far as she was concerned, we were one person.”[2] Though Barbara began singing at an early age, at the Elks Club and to her father over the phone, she spent three years after graduating from high school working as a typist.[2]

Barbara Cook gives a classic performance of “Losing My Mind” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.”

While visiting New York City in 1948 with her mother, Cook decided to stay and try to find work as an actress.[4] She began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950. She made her Broadway debut a year later, as Sandy in the short-lived 1951 musical Flahooley.[1] She landed another role quickly, portraying Ado Annie in the 1951 City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Oklahoma! and stayed with the production when it went on its national tour the following year.

Also in 1952, Cook made her first television appearance on the show Armstrong Circle Theatre which presented her in an original play entitled Mr. Bemiss Takes a Trip. In 1954, Cook was cast in the short lived soap opera Golden Windows which ran for only a handful of episodes before being canceled. She also starred as Jane Piper in a television version of Victor Herbert‘s operetta Babes in Toyland and returned to City Center to portray Carrie Pipperidge in the revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. In 1955, she began to attract major critical praise when she played the supporting role of Hilda Miller in Plain and Fancy. Cook’s good reviews and clear soprano voice enabled her to win the role of Cunegonde in Leonard Bernstein‘s new operetta Candide in 1956. She became famous for the show stopping song, “Glitter and Be Gay“.[1] That same year she appeared on television in a Producers’ Showcase production of Bloomer Girl as Evelina Applegate.

“Till There Was You” from the Music Man

In 1957, she took the role of Julie Jordan in the yet another City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and portrayed Elsie Maynard in a television version of The Yeomen of the Guard as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series. Other television credits for Cook during this time of her career include appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Perry Como Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The United States Steel Hour, Play of the Week, and a musical version of Hansel and Gretel.

Although Candide was not a success, Cook’s portrayal of Cunegonde established her as one of Broadway’s leading ingenues. Her two most famous roles after this were her Tony Award winning portrayal of Marian the Librarian in Meredith Willson‘s 1957 hit The Music Man and as Amalia Balash in the 1962 Jerry BockSheldon Harnick musical She Loves Me. The song “Ice Cream” from the latter became one of Cook’s signature songs.

Cook married acting teacher David LeGrant on March 9, 1952. They had one child, Adam, in 1959, and were divorced in 1965.

“Make The Man Love Me!”

During the 1960s, Cook created roles in some less successful musicals: Liesl Brandel in The Gay Life (1961) and Carol Deems in Something More! (1964). She did, however, make a well received portrayal of Anna Leonowens in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I in 1960 and an acclaimed portrayal of Magnolia in Show Boat in 1966, both revivals at City Center. Cook also recorded the role of Anna in a 1964 studio recording with Theodore Bikel as the King. She starred in two National tours during the 1960s, Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1964 and Fanny Brice in Funny Girl in 1967.[5]

Cook also tried her hand at non-musical roles, replacing Sandy Dennis in the play Any Wednesday and originating the role of Patsy Newquist in Jules Feiffer‘s Little Murders. Her last original musical role on Broadway came in 1971 when she played Dolly Talbo in The Grass Harp. In 1972, she returned to the dramatic stage in the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center‘s production of Gorky‘s Enemies. As she began struggling with depression, obesity, and alcoholism in the seventies (she eventually quit drinking in 1977), Cook began finding trouble getting stage work.[2]

“Its Not Where You Start”

In the mid 1970s Cook’s fortunes changed for the better when she met and befriended composer and pianist Wally Harper. Harper convinced her to put together a concert and on January 26, 1975, accompanied by Harper, she made her debut in a legendary solo concert at Carnegie Hall that resulted in a highly successful live album.[4] Continuing a collaboration with Harper that lasted until his death in 2004, Cook became a successful concert performer. Over the next three decades, the two performed together at not only many of the best cabaret spots and music halls like Michael’s Pub and the St. Regis Hotel in New York City but nationally and internationally. Cook and Harper returned to Carnegie Hall in September 1980, to perform a series of songs arranged by Harper. The performance was captured on the CD It’s Better With a Band.

Barbara Cook 5-28-56  “Bloomer Girl”

In 1986, Cook was nominated for an Olivier Award for her one-woman show, accompanied by Harper, at London’s Albery Theatre. She won a Drama Desk Award in 1987 for her Broadway show A Concert for the Theatre, again with Harper. In October 1991 they appeared as featured artists at the Carnegie Hall Gala Music and Remembrance: A Celebration of Great Musical Partnerships which raised money for the advancement of the performing arts and for AIDS research. In 1994, they performed a critically acclaimed performance at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Alistair Macauley wrote in the Financial Times about the concert, “Barbara Cook is the greatest singer in the world… Ms. Cook is the only popular singer active today who should be taken seriously by lovers of classical music. Has any singer since Callas matched Cook’s sense of musical architecture? I doubt it.” The performing duo traveled all over the world giving concerts together including a number of times at the White House – for Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

“We’ll Be Together Again” on Barbara’s 80th Birthday!

From the mid 1970s on, Cook returned only sporadically to acting, mostly in occasional studio cast and live concert versions of stage musicals. In September 1985 she appeared with the New York Philharmonic as Sally in the renowned concert version of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. In 1986, she recorded the role of Martha in the Sharon Burgett musical version of The Secret Garden along with John Cullum, Judy Kaye, and George Rose. In 1987 she performed the role of Julie Jordan in a concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel with Samuel Ramey as Billy, Sarah Brightman as Carrie, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and she won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for A Concert for the Theatre. In 1988 she originated the role of Margaret White in the notorious musical version of Stephen King‘s Carrie – The Musical which premiered in England and was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1994 she provided both her acting and singing skills to the animated film version of Thumbelina which featured music by Barry Manilow. That same year she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2000 she was joined by Lillias White, Malcolm Gets, and Debbie Gravitte on the studio cast recording of Jimmy McHugh‘s Lucky in the Rain.

“Its Better With A Band”

In 1997, Cook celebrated her 70th birthday by giving a concert at Albert Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000, she was one of the only American performers chosen to perform at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival in the fabled Sydney Opera House.

In February 2001, Cook returned to Carnegie Hall to perform Sings Mostly Sondheim which was recorded live and released on CD. Critically acclaimed from the start, Cook took the concert to London’s West End where it was the smash hit during London’s 2001 summer season. She garnered two Olivier Award nominations for Best Entertainment and Best Actress in a Musical for the concert. She went on to perform Sings Mostly Sondheim at Lincoln Center for a sold-out fourteen week run, winning a Tony Award nomination for Best Theatrical Event, and then took the show on a National tour throughout major cities in the United States. DRG filmed the stage production and it was released on DVD on the DRG/Koch Entertainment label. Sings Mostly Sondheim was the last major project that Wally Harper and Cook worked on together.

After Harper’s death in 2004, Cook made the painful adjustment to new accompanists in solo shows like Tribute (a reference to Harper) and No One Is Alone that continued to receive acclaim; The New York Times exclaimed in 2005 that she was “at the top of her game….Cook’s voice is remarkably unchanged from 1958, when she won the Tony Award for playing Marian the Librarian in The Music Man. A few high notes aside, it is, eerily, as rich and clear as ever.”[2]

Another rndition of “Better With A Band” This time from 1980

In January 2006, Cook became the first female pop singer to be presented by the Metropolitan Opera in the company’s more than one hundred year history. She presented a solo concert of Broadway show tunes and classic jazz standards, and was supported on a few numbers by guest singers Audra McDonald and Josh Groban. The concert was recorded and subsequently released on CD. On June 25, 2006, Cook was the special guest star of the Award Winning Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., celebrating GMCW’s Silver Anniversary in a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Cook was the featured artist at the Arts! by George gala on September 29, 2007 at the Fairfax campus of George Mason University.[6] On October 22, 2007, Cook sang at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL) with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus in the chorus’s concert entitled “An Evening With Barbara Cook”. Upon completion of the concert, an almost full house greeted her with a round of “Happy Birthday” in honor of her impending 80th birthday. On December 2, 2007, Cook celebrated her birthday in the UK with a concert at the home of English National Opera – The Coliseum Theatre, in London’s West End.

Most notably as she entered her ninth decade, she performed in two sold-out concerts with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. The New York Times reviewer threw his hat in the air, writing of Miss Cook as “a performer spreading the gospel of simplicity, self-reliance and truth” who is “never glib” and summoning adjectives such as “astonishing” and “transcendent,” concluding that she sings with “a tenderness and honesty that could break your heart and mend it all at once.”[7]

Barbara Cook, soprano Salute to Broadway (South Pacific, Camelot and No Strings)

In June 2008, Cook appeared in Strictly Gershwin at the Albert Hall in London, England with the full company of English National Ballet. She appeared with the Ulster Orchestra as the Closing Concert of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 31 October 2008. Her other 2008 appearances included concerts in Chicago, West Palm Beach and San Francisco. In 2009 she performed with the Princeton Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and gave concerts in Boca Raton, Florida and at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. She is currently performing in a cabaret show in New York City which opened in April 2009.

Cook returns to Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre‘s Stephen Sondheim revue “Sondheim on Sondheim“, created and directed by long-time Sondheim collaborator James Lapine,currently running at Studio 54. She will star opposite Vanessa L. Williams. Cook has been nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the category of Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, opposite notables like Angela Lansbury and Katie Finneran.

Quick Bio Facts:

Barbara CookBarbara Cook AKA Barbara Nell Cook

Born: 25-Oct1927
Birthplace: Atlanta, GA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer, Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Broadway, TV and cabaret singer and actress

Sister: Patricia (d.)
Husband: David LeGrant (comedian, div.)
Son: Adam (b. 1959)

Barbara Cook
Obama for America
Grammy Best Original Cast Album (Broadway Or TV) (for The Music Man) (1958)
Grammy Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album (for She Loves Me) (1963)
Tony Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical) (for The Music Man) (1958)
Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Depression

Thumbelina (30-Mar-1994) [VOICE]

Official Website:

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube,,



  • Songs of Perfect Propriety (1958)
  • Barbara Cook Sings “From the Heart” – [The Best of Rodgers & Hart] (1959)
  • At Carnegie Hall (1975)
  • As Of Today (1977)
  • It’s Better With a Band (1981)
  • The Disney Album (1988)
  • Dorothy Fields: Close as Pages in a Book (1993)
  • Live from London (1994)
  • Oscar Winners: The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II (1997)
  • All I Ask of You (1999)
  • The Champion Season: A Salute to Gower Champion (1999)
  • Sings Mostly Sondheim: Live at Carnegie Hall (2001)
  • Count Your Blessings (2003)—Grammy Award nominee (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album)
  • Barbara Cook’s Broadway! (2004)
  • Tribute (2005)
  • Barbara Cook at The Met (2006)
  • No One Is Alone (2007)

Cast and studio cast recordings

  • Flahooley (1951)
  • Plain and Fancy (1955)
  • Candide (1956)
  • The Music Man (1957)—Grammy Award winner (Best Original Cast Album)
  • Hansel and Gretel (Television Soundtrack, 1958)
  • The Gay Life (1961)
  • Show Boat (Studio Cast, 1962)
  • She Loves Me (1963)—Grammy Award winner (Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album)
  • The King and I (Studio Cast, 1964)
  • Show Boat (Lincoln Center Cast, 1966)
  • The Grass Harp (1971)
  • Follies in Concert (1985)
  • The Secret Garden (World Premiere Recording, 1986)
  • Carousel (Studio Cast, 1987)
  • Lucky in the Rain (2000)
  • The Grass Grows Green (1972)
  • Thumbelina (Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1994)


  • The Broadway Years: Till There Was You (1995)
  • Legends of Broadway—Barbara Cook (2006)
  • The Essential Barbara Cook Collection (2009)
  • Sondheim on Sondheim (2010)

Ella Mae Morse

Ella Mae Morse (September 12, 1924 – October 16, 1999[1]), was an American popular singer. Morse blended jazz, country, pop, and R&B.

Morse was born in Mansfield, Texas. She was hired by Jimmy Dorsey when she was 14 years old. Dorsey believed she was 19, and when he was informed by the school board that he was now responsible for her care, he fired her.[1] In 1942, at the age of 17, she joined Freddie Slack‘s band, with whom in the same year she recordedCow Cow Boogie“, Capitol Records‘ first gold single.[1]Mr. Five by Five” was also recorded by Morse with Slack[2] and they had a hit recording with the song in 1942 (Capitol 115). She also originated the wartime hit “Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet,” which was later popularized by Nancy Walker in the film, Broadway Rhythm.

“Cow Cow Boogie”

In 1943, Morse began to record solo. She reached #1 in the R&B chart with “Shoo-Shoo Baby” in December for two weeks. In the same year she had a cameo appearance in the film Reveille with Beverly and starred in Universal’s “South of Dixie” and “The Ghost Catchers” with Olsen and Johnson. She sang in a wide variety of styles, and she had hits on both the U.S. pop and rhythm and blues charts. However, she never received the popularity of a major star.[1]

The song “Love Me or Leave Me” as recorded by Morse was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 1922, with the flip side “Blacksmith Blues”.[3]

“Shoo Shoo Baby” 1943

In 1946, “House of Blue Lights” by Freddie Slack and Morse, (written by Slack and Raye) saw them perform what was one of many of Raye’s songs picked up by black R&B artists.[4][5]. Her biggest solo success was “Blacksmith Blues” in 1952, which sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] The same year her version of “Down the Road a Piece” appeared on Capitol with Slack again on piano accompaniment. Morse also recorded a version of “Oakie Boogie” for Capitol which reached #23 in 1952.[7] Her version was one of the first songs arranged by Nelson Riddle.[8] Morse ceased recording in 1957 but continued performing until the early 1990’s at such clubs as Michael’s Pub in New York, Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill and the Vine St. Bar and Grill. She appeared regularly at Disneyland for several years with the Ray McKinley Orchestra and did a successful tour of Australia shortly before her final illness.

1943, “No Love, No Nothin’ ”

Morse had six children from two marriages, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her music career was profiled in Nick Tosches‘ 1984 book, The Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Birth of Rock in the Wild Years Before Elvis. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1724 Vine Street. Her entire recorded body of work was issued in a deluxe box set by Bear Family Records.

“Why Shouldn’t I?”

“Mr Five By Five”

In 1999 Morse died of respiratory failure in Bullhead City, Arizona, aged 75.[1]

Sources: wikipedia, youtube,

Alternate Bio Info:

Popular singer best known for her hit ”Cow Cow Boogie,” Ella Mae Morse got her big break at a young age with Jimmy Dorsey‘s orchestra. There are two stories about her short stay with Dorsey. One is that she called for an audition when the band was booked at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. Needing a female singer, Dorsey listened, liked her and hired her. She claimed to be 19 but was really 13, and when Dorsey later received a notice from the school board informing him that he was responsible for her he fired her.

The other story tells that Dorsey discovered a 15-year-old Ella Mae at a Houston jam session. She had borrowed carfare to get to the event and walked out with a Dorsey contract. She was, however, inexperienced and undisciplined. Singer Bob Eberly recalls that on one radio program she forgot the lyrics to a song and started ad libbing as to that fact and on another song she sang an alternate set of risqué lyrics that was banned by the network. Dorsey fired her after only a month, hiring Helen O’Connell in her place.

“40 Cups Of Coffee”

The first story seems to be the ”official” one, while the second is how Dorsey bandmembers and music journalists of the time remembered it. In consideration of Morse’s age, the second story better fits with the chronology of Dorsey’s orchestra.

Whatever the truth, young Ella Mae apparently made a good impression on Dorsey bandmember Freddie Slack. Three years later, in 1942, he hired her to sing with his new orchestra. It was there she had her biggest hit with ”Cow Cow Boogie,” Capitol Records’ first gold single. She left Slack a year later and continued recording solo for Capitol. Though her records sold well throughout her career she never found a large following. She retired in 1957. Ella Mae Morse passed away from respiratory failure in 1999.


Paul Whiteman

Paul Samuel Whiteman (March 28, 1890 – December 29, 1967) was an American bandleader and orchestral director.

Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman’s recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the “King of Jazz.” Using a large ensemble and exploring many styles of music, Whiteman is perhaps best known for his blending of symphonic music and jazz, as typified by his 1924 commissioning and debut of George Gershwin‘s jazz-influenced “Rhapsody In Blue“. Whiteman recorded many jazz and pop standards during his career, including “Wang Wang Blues”, “Mississippi Mud“, “Rhapsody in Blue“, “Wonderful One“, “Hot Lips“, “Mississippi Suite“, and “Grand Canyon Suite“. His popularity faded in the swing music era of the 1930s, and by the 1940s Whiteman was semi-retired from music.

Whiteman’s place in the history of early jazz is somewhat controversial. Detractors suggest that Whiteman’s ornately-orchestrated music was jazz in name only (lacking the genre’s improvisational and emotional depth), and co-opted the innovations of black musicians. Defenders note that Whiteman’s fondness for jazz was genuine (he worked with black musicians as much as was feasible during an era of racial segregation), that his bands included many of the era’s most esteemed white jazz musicians, and argue that Whiteman’s groups handled jazz admirably as part of a larger repertoire.[1] In his autobiography, Duke Ellington[2] declared, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.”

1920 “Whispering” Big hit that year and re-make hit in the early 40’s for Tommy Dorsey also hit the top of the charts.

Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado. After a start as a classical violinist and violist, he led a jazz-influenced dance band, which became popular locally in San Francisco, California in 1918. In 1920 he moved with his band to New York City where they started making recordings for Victor Records which made the Paul Whiteman Orchestra famous nationally.

1927 “My Blue Heaven”

Whiteman became the most popular band director of the decade. In a time when most dance bands consisted of six to 10 men, Whiteman directed a much larger and more imposing group of up to 35 musicians.

He recorded Hoagy Carmichael singing and playing “Washboard Blues” to the accompaniment of his orchestra in 1927.[3]

In May 1928 Whiteman signed with Columbia Records, and stayed with that label until September 1931, when he returned to Victor. He would remain signed with Victor until March 1937.

In the 1920s the media referred to Whiteman as “The King of Jazz”.[4] Whiteman emphasized the way he had approached the already well-established style of music, while also organizing its composition and style in his own fashion. While most jazz musicians and fans consider improvisation to be essential to the musical style, Whiteman thought the genre could be improved by orchestrating the best of it, with formal written arrangements. Whiteman’s recordings were popular critically and successful commercially, and his style of jazz music was often the first jazz of any form that many Americans heard during the era.

For more than 30 years Whiteman, referred to as “Pops”, sought and encouraged musicians, vocalists, composers, arrangers, and entertainers who looked promising. In 1924 Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue, which was premiered by Whiteman’s orchestra with George Gershwin at the piano. Another familiar piece in Whiteman’s repertoire was Grand Canyon Suite, by Ferde Grofé.

Whiteman hired many of the best jazz musicians for his band, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Steve Brown, Mike Pingitore, Gussie Mueller, Wilbur Hall (billed by Whiteman as “Willie Hall”), Jack Teagarden, and Bunny Berigan. He also encouraged upcoming African American musical talents, and initially planned on hiring black musicians, but Whiteman’s management eventually persuaded him that doing would be career suicide due to racial tension and America’s segregation of that time.[5] However, Whiteman crossed racial lines behind-the-scenes, hiring black arrangers like Fletcher Henderson and engaging in mutually-beneficial efforts with recording sessions and scheduling of tours.

One of my favorite of the band singers, Mildred Bailey, with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra singing Hoagy Carmichael’s, “Georgia” Mildred went on to Red Norvo’s band in the 30’s and 40’s and became one of the most celebrated of the girl singers.

In late 1926 Whiteman signed three candidates for his orchestra: Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris. Whiteman billed the singing trio as The Rhythm Boys. Crosby’s prominence in the Rhythm Boys helped launch his career as one of the most successful singers of the 20th century. Paul Robeson (1928) and Billie Holiday (1942) also recorded with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

Whiteman had 28 number one records during the 1920s and 32 during his career. At the height of his popularity, eight out of the top ten sheet music sales slots were by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

His recording of José Padilla’s Valencia (Padilla/Boyer/Charles/Grey) topped the charts for 11 weeks, beginning 30 March 1926, becoming the #1 record of 1926.[6]

Whiteman signed singer Mildred Bailey in 1929 to appear on his radio program. She first recorded with the Whiteman Orchestra in 1931.

recorded 9/20/1938
melody based on Claude Debussy’s “Reverie” This song was also recorded by Larry Clinton’s band and became an instant hit for vocalist Bea Wain.

Jazz musician and leader of the Mound City Blue Blowers Red McKenzie and cabaret singer Ramona Davies (billed as “Ramona and her Grand Piano”) joined the Whiteman group in 1932. The King’s Jesters were also with Paul Whiteman in 1931.

In 1933 Whiteman had a #2 hit on the Billboard charts with the song, “Willow Weep for Me“.[7]

In 1934 Paul Whiteman had his last two #1 hits, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes“, with vocals by Bob Lawrence, which was #1 for six weeks, and “Wagon Wheels”, which was #1 for one week, his final hit recording. From 1920 to 1934 Whiteman had 32 #1 recordings, charting 28 of them by 1929. By contrast, during the same period, the 1920s Jazz Age, Louis Armstrong had none.

In 1942 Whiteman began recording for Capitol Records, cofounded by songwriters Buddy DeSylva and Johnny Mercer and music store owner Glenn Wallichs. Whiteman and His Orchestra’s recordings of “I Found a New Baby” and “The General Jumped At Dawn” was the label’s first single release. (Another notable Capitol record he made is the 1942 “Trav’lin Light” featuring Billie Holiday (billed as “Lady Day”, due to her being under contract with another label).

1920 “The Japanese Sandman”

Whiteman was married four times; to Nellie Stack in 1908; to Miss Jimmy Smith; to Mildred Vanderhoff in 1922. In 1931 Whiteman married motion picture actress Margaret Livingston following his divorce from Vanderhoff that same year. The marriage to Livingston lasted until his death.

Whiteman resided at Walking Horse Farm near the village of Rosemont in Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey from 1938 to 1959. After selling the farm to agriculturalist Lloyd Wescott, Whiteman moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania for his remaining years.[8][9][10]

Whiteman died at the age of 77 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1967.

In 1930 “Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra” starred in the first feature-length movie musical filmed entirely in Technicolor, King of Jazz. The film was technically ahead of its time, with many dazzling camera effects complementing the Whiteman music. Whiteman appeared as himself, and good-naturedly kidded his weight and his dancing skills. A highlight was a concert rendition of Rhapsody in Blue. Unfortunately, by the time King of Jazz was released to theaters, audiences had seen too many “all-singing, all-dancing” musicals, and much of the moviegoing public stayed away. (It also didn’t help that the film was shot as a revue with no story and not particularly imaginative camerawork.) The expensive film didn’t show a profit until 1933, when it was successfully reissued to cash in on the popularity of 42nd Street and its elaborate production numbers.

Whiteman also appeared as himself in the 1945 movie Rhapsody in Blue on the life and career of George Gershwin and also appeared in The Fabulous Dorseys in 1947, a bio-pic starring Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey. Whiteman also appeared as the baby in Nertz (1929), the bandleader in Thanks a Million (1935), as himself in Strike Up the Band (1940), and in the Paramount Pictures short The Lambertville Story (1949).

Conducted by Nat Shilkret and w George Gershwin at the piano. New York, April 21, 1927.
This is the first electrical recording of “Rhapsody In Blue”.

During the 1930s Whiteman had several radio shows, including Kraft Music Hall and Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties, which featured the talents of Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Ramona, Durelle Alexander and others.

“Anything Goes”

In the 1940s and 1950s, after he had disbanded his orchestra, Whiteman worked as a music director for the ABC Radio Network. He also hosted Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club from Philadelphia on ABC-TV from 1949–1954 (with announcer Dick Clark), and continued to appear as guest conductor for many concerts. His manner on stage was disarming; he signed off each program with something casual like, “Well, that just about slaps the cap on the old milk bottle for tonight.”

Whiteman composed the standard “Wonderful One” in 1922 with Ferde Grofé and Dorothy Terris (also known as Theodora Morse), based on a theme by film director Marshall Neilan. The songwriting credit is assigned as music composed by Paul Whiteman, Ferde Grofe, and Marshall Neilan, with lyrics by Dorothy Terriss. The single reached #3 on Billboard in May 1923, staying on the charts for 5 weeks. “(My) Wonderful One” was recorded by Gertrude Moody, Edward Miller, Martha Pryor, Mel Torme, Doris Day, Woody Herman, Helen Moretti, John McCormack; it was released as Victor 961. Jan Garber and His Orchestra, and Ira Sullivan with Tony Castellano also recorded the song. Henry Burr recorded it in 1924 and Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1940. On the sheet music published in 1922 by Leo Feist it is described as a “Waltz Song” and “Paul Whiteman’s Sensational Waltz Hit” and is dedicated “To Julie”. “Wonderful One” appeared in the following movies: The Chump Champ (1950), Little ‘Tinker (1948), Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), Sufferin’ Cats (1943), Design for Scandal (1941), Strike Up the Band (1940), and Westward Passage (1932).

Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra. – “Charleston” (unpublished version), 1925

In 1924 Whiteman composed “When the One You Love Loves You” with Abel Baer and lyricist Cliff Friend. Whiteman recorded the song on 24 December 1924 in New York with Franklyn Baur on vocals and released it as Victor 19553-B backed with “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. The single reached #7 on the Billboard national pop singles charts in April 1925, staying on the charts for 3 weeks. The song is described as “A Sentimental Waltz Ballad” on the 1934 sheet music. Singer and composer Morton Downey, Sr., the father of the talkshow host, recorded the song in 1925 and released it as Brunswick 2887. Eva Shirley sang the song in Ed Wynn‘s Grab Bag, a Broadway musical which opened in 1924 at the Globe. Leo Feist published the sheet music for the Shirley version in 1924 featuring Eva Shirley on the cover.


Paul Whiteman composed “Flamin’ Mamie” in 1925 with Fred Rose, one of the top hits of 1925, which was recorded by the Harry Reser Band, Merritt Brunies and the Friars Inn Orchestra, Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, the Six Black Diamonds in 1926 on Banner, the Toll House Jazz Band, Aileen Stanley in 1925 with Billy “Uke” Carpenter on the ukulele, Hank Penny in 1938, Turk Murphy, the Frisco Syncopators, the Firehouse Five Plus Two, Bob Schulz and His Frisco Jazz Band, and the Coon-Sanders Nighthawk Orchestra led by Carleton Coon and Joe Sanders with Joe Sanders on vocals. The lyrics describe Mamie as a Roaring Twenties vamp: “Flamin’ Mamie, a sure-fire vamp/When it comes to lovin’/She’s a human oven/Come on you futuristic papas/She’s the hottest thing he’s seen since the Chicago fire.”

Paul Whiteman also composed “Charlestonette” in 1925 with Fred Rose which was published by Leo Feist. The song was released as Victor 19785 backed with “Ida-I Do” in 1925. Ben Selvin’s Dance Orchestra and Bennie Krueger and His Orchestra also recorded the song in 1925.

“You Took Advantage of Me”

In Louis Armstrong & Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz (2004), Joshua Berrett wrote that “Whiteman Stomp” was credited to Fats Waller, Alphonso Trent, and Paul Whiteman. Lyricist Jo Trent is the co-author. The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra first recorded “Whiteman Stomp” on 11 May 1927 and released it as Columbia 1059-D. The Fletcher Henderson recording lists the songwriters as “Fats Waller/Jo Trent/Paul Whiteman”. Paul Whiteman recorded the song on 11 August 1927 and released it as Victor 21119.

“California Here I Come”

“Then and Now”, recorded on December 7, 1954 and released in 1955 on Coral, was composed by Paul Whiteman with Dick Jacobs and Bob Merrill. The song was released as a 45 inch single in 1955 as Coral 61336 backed with “Mississippi Mud” by Paul Whiteman and His New Ambassador Orchestra with the New Rhythm Boys.


Whiteman also co-wrote the popular song “My Fantasy” with Leo Edwards and Jack Meskill, which is a musical adaptation of the Polovetsian Dances theme from the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin. The Paul Whiteman Orchestra recorded “My Fantasy” in 1939.

1926 “The Birth of the Blues”

Quick Bio Facts:

PaulWhiteman Born: 28-Mar1890
Birthplace: Denver, CO
Died: 29-Dec1967
Location of death: Doylestown, PA
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Ewing Church Cemetery, Ewing, NJ

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The King of Jazz

Military service: US Navy (WWI)

Father: Wilburforce Whiteman
Wife: Nellie Stack (m. 1908)
Wife: Miss Jimmy Smith (div. 1922)
Wife: Mildred Vanderhoff (m. 1922, div. 1931)
Wife: Margaret Livingston (actress, m. 1931, until his death)

Capitol Records Co-Founder (1942)
Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame 1993
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6157 Hollywood Blvd. (recording)
Hollywood Walk of Fame 1601 Vine St. (radio)

The Fabulous Dorseys (21-Feb-1947) Himself
Rhapsody in Blue (22-Sep-1945) Himself
Atlantic City (29-Jul-1944) Himself
Strike Up the Band (27-Sep-1940)
The King of Jazz (20-Apr-1930) Himself

Sources: Wikipedia,, youtube

Major recordings

  • Whispering, 1920, #1 for 11 weeks, the no.2 hit of 1920, 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee
  • The Japanese Sandman, 1920, #1 for 2 weeks
  • Wang Wang Blues, 1921, #1 for 6 weeks, on the soundtrack to the 1996 Academy Award–winning movie The English Patient
  • My Mammy, 1921, #1 for 5 weeks
  • Cherie, 1921, #1 for 6 weeks
  • Say It With Music, 1921, #1 for 5 weeks
  • Grieving For You-Feather Your Nest, #26 hit of 1921
  • Play that “Song of India” Again, 1921, #1 for 5 weeks, music adapted by Paul Whiteman from the Chanson Indoue theme by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov from the opera Sadko (1898) with lyrics by Leo Wood and Irving Bibo
  • Bright Eyes, the #13 hit of 1921
  • Hot Lips (He’s Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz), 1922, #1 for 6 weeks, featured in the Oprah Winfrey movie The Color Purple (1985), directed by Steven Spielberg
  • Do It Again, 1922, #1 for 2 weeks
  • Three O’Clock in the Morning, 1922, #1 for 8 weeks
  • Stumbling, 1922, #1 for 6 weeks
  • Wonderful One, 1922, music composed by Paul Whiteman and Ferde Grofe, with lyrics by Theodora Morse, #3 on Billboard charts in 1923
  • I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, 1923, #1 for 1 week
  • Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, 1923, #1 for 7 weeks
  • Bambalina, 1923, #1 for 1 week
  • Nuthin’ But, 1923, co-written by Ferde Grofe and Henry Busse
  • Linger Awhile, 1924, #1 for 4 weeks
  • What’ll I Do, 1924, #1 for 5 weeks
  • Somebody Loves Me, 1924, #1 for 5 weeks
  • Rhapsody in Blue, 1924, arranged by Ferde Grofe, with George Gershwin on piano
  • When the One You Love Loves You, 1924, composed by Paul Whiteman
  • All Alone, 1925, #1 for 3 weeks
  • Charlestonette, 1925, composed by Paul Whiteman with Fred Rose
  • Birth of the Blues, 1926, #1 for 4 weeks
  • Valencia, no.1 for 11 weeks in 1926, the #1 record of 1926
  • My Blue Heaven, 1927, #1 for 1 week
  • Three Shades of Blue: Indigo/Alice Blue/Heliotrope, 1927, composed and arranged by Ferde Grofe
  • In a Little Spanish Town, 1927, #1 for 8 weeks
  • I’m Coming, Virginia
  • Whiteman Stomp, 1927
  • Washboard Blues, 1927, with Hoagy Carmichael on vocals and piano
  • Rhapsody in Blue, 1927, “electrical” version, Grammy Hall of Fame inductee
  • Chiquita, #36 hit of 1928
  • From Monday On, 1928, with Bing Crosby, the Rhythm Boys, and Jack Fulton on vocals and Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, #14 on Billboard
  • Mississippi Mud, 1928, with Bing Crosby and Bix Beiderbecke, #6 on Billboard
  • Metropolis: A Blue Fantasy, 1928, composed by Ferde Grofe, with Bix Beiderbecke on cornet
  • Ol’ Man River, 1928, first, fast version, with Bing Crosby on vocals, #1 for 1 week. This recording was Bing Crosby’s first #1 record as a vocalist. Crosby would have 41 such hits during his career.
  • Ol’ Man River, 1928, second, slow version, with Paul Robeson on vocals, Grammy Hall of Fame inductee
  • Concerto in F
  • Among My Souvenirs, 1928, #1 for 4 weeks
  • Ramona, 1928, with Bix Beiderbecke, #1 for 3 weeks
  • Together, 1928, with Jack Fulton on vocals, #1 for 2 weeks. Dinah Shore recorded this song in 1944, which became a hit. Connie Francis recorded the song in 1961; it reached #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The song was also recorded by Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards (1928), Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest (1944), and Tony Pasror and His Orchestra on a V-Disc.
  • My Angel, 1928, with Bix Beiderbecke, #1 for 6 weeks
  • Great Day, 1929, #1 for 2 weeks
  • Body and Soul, 1930, #1 for 6 weeks
  • New Tiger Rag, 1930, #10 on Billboard
  • When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, 1931, vocal by Mildred Bailey and the King’s Jesters
  • Grand Canyon Suite, 1932
  • Mississippi Suite
  • Rise ‘N’ Shine, 1932, featuring Ramona Davies and her Grand Piano
  • All of Me, 1932, #1 for 3 weeks
  • Willow Weep for Me, 1933, #2 chart hit
  • It’s Only a Paper Moon, 1933, with Peggy Healy on vocals. The Whiteman recording, Victor 24400, was used in the 1973 movie Paper Moon
  • San
  • Sun Spots, 1934, with Frankie Trumbauer
  • You’re the Top, #21 hit of 1934
  • Fare-Thee-Well to Harlem, 1934, with vocals by Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden
  • Wagon Wheels, 1934
  • My Fantasy, 1939, Paul Whiteman co-wrote the song “My Fantasy”, an adaptation by Paul Whiteman of the Polovetsian Dances theme from the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, credited to “Paul Whiteman/Leo Edwards/Jack Meskill”. Artie Shaw recorded “My Fantasy” in 1940.
  • Trav’lin’ Light, 1942, with Billie Holiday on vocals
  • Then and Now, 1955
  • The Night is Young (And You’re So Beautiful), 1956, with Tommy Dorsey
  • It’s the Dreamer in Me, 1956, with Jimmy Dorsey

Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda 9 February 1909 – 5 August 1955) was a Portuguese-born Brazilian[1] samba singer and Broadway actress popular in the 1940s and 1950s. She was, by some accounts, the highest-earning woman in the United States and recognized for her signature fruit hat outfit that she wore in the 1943 movie The Gang’s All Here. She is considered the precursor of Brazil‘s Tropicalismo.

Carmen Miranda was born in Várzea da Ovelha, a village in the northern Portuguese municipality of Marco de Canaveses.[1] She was the second daughter of José Maria Pinto Cunha (1887 – 1938) and Maria Emília Miranda (1886 – 1971).[2] When she was 10-months old, her father emigrated to Brazil[3] and settled in Rio de Janeiro, where he opened a barber’s shop. Her mother followed in 1910, together with her daughters Olinda and Maria do Carmo. Maria do Carmo never returned to Portugal, but retained her Portuguese nationality. In Brazil, her parents had four more children – Amaro (1911), Cecília (1913), Aurora (1915 – 2005) and Óscar (1916).[2]

She was christened Carmen by her father because of his love for the opera comique, and also after Bizet‘s masterpiece Carmen. This passion for opera influenced his children, and Miranda’s love for singing and dancing at an early age.[3] She went to school at the Convent of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Her father did not approve of her plans to enter show business. However, her mother supported her and was beaten when her husband discovered Carmen had auditioned for a radio show. Carmen had previously sung at parties and festivals in Rio. Her older sister Olinda contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Portugal for treatment. Miranda went to work in a tie shop at age 14 to help pay her sister’s medical bills. She next worked in a boutique, where she learned to make hats and opened her own hat business which became profitable.

“Chica Chica Boom Chic

Her extraordinary talent was discovered when Miranda was first introduced to composer Josué de Barros, who went on to promote and record her first album with a Brunswick, a German recording company in 1929. In 1930, she was known to be Brazil’s gem singer, and in 1933 went on to sign a two-year contract with Rádio Mayrink Veiga – becoming the first contract singer in the radio industry history of Brazil. In 1934, she was invited as a guest performer in Radio Belgrano in Buenos Aires.[3] Ultimately, Miranda wound up with a recording contract with RCA Records. She pursued a career as a samba singer for ten years before she was invited to New York City to perform in a show on Broadway. As with other popular singers of the era, Miranda made her screen debut in the Brazilian documentary A Voz Do Carnaval (1933). Two years later, Miranda appeared in her first feature film entitled Alô, Alô Brasil. But it was the 1935 film Estudantes that seemed to solidify her in the minds of the movie-going public. In the 1936 movie Alô Alô Carnaval, she performed the famous song Cantoras do Rádio with her sister Aurora, for the first time.[3]

Mamae Eu Quiero

Miranda signed a movie contract with Hollywood and arrived in the United States in 4 May 1939[3] with her band, the Bando da Lua. Carmen grew to fame in the country quickly, having formally been presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House banquet shortly after arrival, and going on to star in 13 Hollywood films.[3] She was encouraged by the United States government as part of President Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, designed to strengthen links with Latin America and Europe; it was believed that in delivering content like hers, the policy would be better received by the American public. By 1946 she was Hollywood‘s highest-paid entertainer and top female tax payer in the United States,[3] earning more than $200,000 that year, according to IRS records.

Against her family’s wishes, she married in March 17, 1947 to failed American movie producer David Sebastian. He soon declared himself to be her “manager” and was responsible for many bad business deals. A heavy drinker, he got Miranda into drinking as well and is accused of eventually being her downfall. In 1948 she became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage after a show. The marriage lasted only a few months, but Carmen, who was Catholic, would not accept getting a divorce. Her sister Aurora later would state in the documentary Bananas is My Business that “he was very rude, many times even hit her. The marriage was a burden in her life; he only married her for her money. He did not like our family”.

“Chattanooga Choo Choo” In Portuguese!!

Miranda made a total of fourteen Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953 and was dubbed “The Brazilian Bombshell”.[4] Her Hollywood image was one of a generic Latinness that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico as well as between samba, tango and habanera. It was carefully stylized and outlandishly flamboyant. She was often shown wearing platform sandals and towering headdresses made of fruit, becoming famous as “the lady in the tutti-frutti hat.”[5] However there were times that Miranda performed barefoot on stage because she could move more easily in bare feet than in the towering platform sandals.

“When I Love I Love”

During a visit to Brazil in 1940, Miranda was heavily criticized for giving in to American commercialism and projecting a false image of Brazil. She responded with the Portuguese language song “Disseram que Voltei Americanizada“, or “They Say I’ve Come Back Americanized.” Another song, “Bananas is My Business,” was based on a line in one of her movies and directly addressed her image. She was greatly upset by the criticism and did not return to Brazil again for fourteen years.

After returning to the United States, Miranda made her final film appearance in the 1953 film Scared Stiff with Martin and Lewis.[6]

In the later years of her life, in addition to her already heavy smoking and alcohol consumption, Miranda began taking amphetamines and barbiturates, all of which took a toll on her body.[7]

On August 4, 1955, Miranda suffered a heart attack during a segment of the live TV show The Jimmy Durante Show, although she did not realize it. After completing a dance number (which was later aired on A&E Network‘s Biography episode about Miranda), she fell to her knees, and Durante instinctively told the band to “stop da music!”. He helped Miranda up to her feet as she laughed “I’m all out of breath!”. “Dat’s OK, honey, I’ll take yer lines”, Durante replied. Miranda laughed again and quickly pulled herself together, finishing the show. At the end of the broadcast, she smiled and waved, then exited the stage. She died later that night after suffering a second heart attack at her home in Beverly Hills.[8]

Her last performance

In accordance with her wishes, Miranda’s body was flown back to Rio de Janeiro where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning.[9] 60,000 people attended her mourning ceremony at the Rio town hall[3], and more than a half a million Brazilians escorted the funeral cortège to her resting place.[10] She is buried in the Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro.[11]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Carmen Miranda has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Boulevard.

In his third album, Tropicalia, Caetano Veloso pays tribute to her in the lyrics of the titular song, “Viva a banda, -da, -da/Carmen Miranda, -da, -da, -da, -da.”

Helena Solberg made a documentary of her life, Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business in 1995.

Miranda’s enormous, fruit-laden hats are iconic visuals recognized around the world. These costumes led to Saks Fifth Avenue developing a line of turbans and jewelry inspired by Carmen Miranda in 1939. [12] Many costume jewelry designers made fruit jewelry also inspired by Carmen Miranda which is still highly valued and collectible by vintage and antique costume jewelry collectors. Fruit jewelry is still popular in jewelry design today. Much of the fruit jewelry seen today is often still fondly called “Carmen Miranda jewelry” because of this. Her image was much satirized and taken up as camp, and today, the “Carmen Miranda” persona is popular among drag performers. The style was even emulated in animated cartoon shorts. The animation department at Warner Brothers seemed to be especially fond of the actress’s image. Animator Virgil Ross used it in his short Slick Hare, featuring Bugs Bunny, who escapes from Elmer Fudd by hiding in the fruit hat. Bugsy himself mimics Miranda briefly in What’s Cookin’ Doc? Tex Avery also used it in his MGM short Magical Maestro when an opera singer is temporarily changed into the persona, fruit hat and all, via a magician’s wand.

1944 “I’m Just Wild About Harry”

Brazilian singer Ney Matogrosso‘s album Batuque brings the period and several of Miranda’s early hits back to life in faithful style. Caetano Veloso paid tribute to Miranda for her early samba recordings made in Rio when he recorded “Disseram que Voltei Americanizada” on the live album Circuladô Vivo in 1992. He also examined her iconic legacy of both kitsch and sincere samba artistry in an essay in the New York Times. Additionally, on one of Veloso’s most popular songs, “Tropicalia”, Veloso sings “Viva a banda da da da….Carmem Miranda da da da” as the final lyrics of the song. Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett included a tribute to Carmen Miranda on his 1973 album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, entitled “They Don’t Dance Like Carmen No More.” In the early 1970s a novelty act known as Daddy Dewdrop had a top 10 hit single in the US titled “Chick-A-Boom,” one of Carmen’s trademark song phrases, although the resemblance ended there. The band Pink Martini recorded “Tempo perdido” for their Hey Eugene! Album on 2007.

Brazilian author Ruy Castro wrote a biography of Carmen Miranda entitled Carmen, published in 2005 in Brazil. This book has yet to appear in English.

Visitors to Rio de Janeiro can find a museum dedicated to Carmen Miranda in the Flamengo neighborhood on Avenida Rui Barbosa. The museum includes several original costumes, and shows clips from her filmography. There is also a museum dedicated to her in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal called “Museu Municipal Carmen Miranda”, with various photos and one of the famous hats. Outside the museum there is a statue of Carmen Miranda.

A hot air balloon in her likeness was conceived in 1982 at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta by Jacques Soukup and Kirk Thomas. Named “Chic-I-Boom”, the craft was built by Cameron England, and was the first special-shaped hot-air balloon ever to fly at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The original Chic-I-Boom was retired from flight in 1996, and a new Chic-I-Boom was built by Aerostar. Chic-I-Boom’s bananas are each 50 feet long.

The singer Leslie Fish created a song called “Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three”, in which a space station is inundated with fresh fruit. A science fiction anthology later had the same title.

John Cale, a member of the Velvet Underground, issued a song called “The Soul of Carmen Miranda” on his album Words for the Dying.

A suburb in Sydney, Australia called “Miranda” has a night club called “Carmens” thus being Carmens (in) Miranda.

Some time ago, I saw an interview with Alice Faye as the guest. Alice said that 20th Century Fox had entered into a rather boring period and they were looking to breathe some new life into the studio. Carmen Miranda burst onto the scene. Alice Faye said she was a bundle of energy and despite her “hokey” appearance and crazy costumes, she was extraordinarily talented and a very savvy business woman. She was exactly what the studio was looking for and everyone there welcomed her. No wonder Carmen Miranda quickly rose to the status of highest paid female celebrity in the country.

Sources:,, youtube, wikipedia

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Quick Bio Facts:

Carmen MirandaCarmen Miranda

AKA Maria do Carmo Miranda Da Cunha

Born: 9-Feb1909
Birthplace: Marco de Canavezes, Portugal
Died: 5-Aug1955
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Cemitério São João Batista, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Dancer, Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The lady in the tutti-frutti hat

Father: José Maria Pinto da Cunha (barber)
Mother: Maria Emília Miranda da Cunha (homemaker)
Sister: Olinda (b. 1907)
Brother: Mario (b. 1911)
Sister: Cecília (b. 1913)
Sister: Aurora Miranda (actress, b. 20-Apr-1915)
Brother: Oscar (b. 1916)
Husband: David Sebastian (m. 17-Mar-1947, until her death)

Nervous Breakdown
Risk Factors: Depression

It’s All True (15-Oct-1993) Herself [VOICE]
Scared Stiff (27-Apr-1953)
Nancy Goes to Rio (10-Mar-1950)
A Date with Judy (21-Jun-1948)
Copacabana (1-Nov-1947)
If I’m Lucky (2-Sep-1946)
Doll Face (Jan-1946)
Something for the Boys (1-Nov-1944)
Greenwich Village (27-Sep-1944)
Four Jills in a Jeep (17-Mar-1944) Herself
The Gang’s All Here (24-Dec-1943)
Springtime in the Rockies (6-Nov-1942)
Week-End in Havana (8-Oct-1941)
That Night in Rio (11-Apr-1941)
Down Argentine Way (11-Oct-1940) Herself

Official Website:


Year Film Role Notes
1933 A Voz do Carnaval Herself at Rádio Mayrink Veiga
1935 Alô, Alô, Brasil
Estudantes Mimi
1936 Alô Alô Carnaval
1939 Banana-da-Terra
1940 Laranja-da-China
Down Argentine Way Herself
1941 That Night in Rio Carmen
Week-End in Havana Rosita Rivas
Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the Navy Herself Short subject
1942 Springtime in the Rockies Rosita Murphy
1943 The Gang’s All Here Dorita Alternative title: The Girls He Left Behind
1944 Greenwich Village Princess Querida
Something for the Boys Chiquita Hart
Four Jills in a Jeep Herself
1945 The All-Star Bond Rally Herself (Pinup girl)
1946 Doll Face Chita Chula Alternative title: Come Back to Me
If I’m Lucky Michelle O’Toole
1947 Copacabana Carmen Novarro/Mademoiselle Fifi
1948 A Date with Judy Rosita Cochellas
1950 Nancy Goes to Rio Marina Rodrigues
1953 Scared Stiff Carmelita Castinha
Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Ed Wynn Show Herself 1 episode
1951 What’s My Line? Mystery Guest 1 episode
1951-1952 The Colgate Comedy Hour Herself 2 episodes
1953 Toast of the Town Herself 1 episode
1955 The Jimmy Durante Show Herself 2 episodes

Count Basie

William “Count” Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years. Many notable musicians came to prominence under his direction, including tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry “Sweets” Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams. Basie’s theme songs were “One O’Clock Jump” and “April In Paris“.

William James Basie was born to Harvey Lee Basie, and Lillian Ann Childs, who lived on Mechanic Street in Red Bank, New Jersey.[1][2] His father worked as a coachman and caretaker for a wealthy judge. After automobiles replaced horses, his father became a groundskeeper and handyman for several families in the area.[3] His mother, a piano player who gave Basie his first piano lessons, took in laundry and baked cakes for sale and paid 25 cents a lesson for piano instruction for him.[4][5]

Basie was not much of a scholar and instead dreamed of a traveling life, inspired by the carnivals which came to town. He only got as far as junior high school.[6] He would hang out at the Palace Theater in Red Bank and did occasional chores for the management, which got him free admission to the shows. He also learned to operate the spotlights for the vaudeville shows. One day, when the pianist failed to arrive by show time, Basie took his place. Playing by ear, he quickly learned to improvise music appropriate to silent movies.[7]

Though a natural at the piano, Basie preferred drums. However, the obvious talents of another young Red Bank area drummer, Sonny Greer (who was Duke Ellington‘s drummer from 1919 to 1951), discouraged Basie and he switched to piano exclusively by age 15.[4] They played together in venues until Greer set out on his professional career. By then Basie was playing with pick-up groups for dances, resorts, and amateur shows, including Harry Richardson’s “Kings of Syncopation”.[8] When not playing a gig, he hung out at the local pool hall with other musicians where he picked up on upcoming play dates and gossip. He got some jobs in Asbury Park, New Jersey, playing at the Hongkong Inn, until a better player took his place.[9]

Around 1924, he went to Harlem, a hotbed of jazz, living down the block from the Alhambra Theater. Early after his arrival, he bumped into Sonny Greer, who was by then the drummer for the Washingtonians, Duke Ellington‘s early band.[10] Soon, Basie met many of the Harlem musicians who were making the scene, including Willie “the Lion” Smith and James P. Johnson.

Basie toured in several acts between 1925 and 1927, including Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies as part of the Hippity Hop show; on the Keith, the Columbia Burlesque, and the Theater Owners Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.) vaudeville circuits; and as a soloist and accompanist to blues singers Katie Krippen and Gonzelle White.[11][12] His touring took him to Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago. Throughout his tours, Basie met many great jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong.[13]

Count Basie, piano; Wardell Gray, tenor sax; Buddy DeFranco, clarinet; Clark Terry, trumpet; Freddie Green, guitar; Jimmy Lewis, bass; Gus Johnson, drums, from the film, “Rhythm and Blues Review,” October 1950 “One O’Clock Jump”

Back in Harlem in 1925, Basie got his first steady job at Leroy’s, a place known for its piano players and its “cutting contests”. The place catered to “uptown celebrities”, and typically the band winged every number without sheet music (using “head” arrangements).[14] He met Fats Waller, who was playing organ at the Lincoln Theater accompanying silent movies, and Waller taught him how to play that instrument (Basie later played organ at the Eblon Theater in Kansas City).[15] As he did with Duke Ellington, Willie “the Lion” Smith helped Basie out during the lean times arranging gigs at house-rent parties, introducing him to other top musicians, and teaching him some piano technique.[16]

In 1928 Basie was in Tulsa and heard Walter Page and his Famous Blue Devils, one of the first big bands, which featured Jimmy Rushing on vocals.[17] A few months later, he was invited to join the band, which played mostly in Texas and Oklahoma. It was at this time that he began to be known as ‘Count’ Basie (see Jazz royalty).[18]

“April In Paris”

The following year, Basie became the pianist with the Bennie Moten band based in Kansas City, inspired by Moten’s ambition to raise his band to the level of Duke Ellington’s or Fletcher Henderson‘s.[19] Where the Blue Devils were “snappier” and more “bluesy”, the Moten band was classier and more respected, and played in the “Kansas City stomp” style.[20] In addition to playing piano, Basie was co-arranger with Eddie Durham, who actually did the notating.[21] During a stay in Chicago, Basie recorded with the band. He occasionally played four-hand piano and dual pianos with Moten, who also conducted.[22] The band improved with several personnel changes, including the addition of tenor saxophonist Ben Webster.

When the band voted Moten out, Basie took over for several months as Count Basie and his Cherry Blossoms until the band folded, when he returned to Moten’s newly re-organized band.[23] When Moten died in 1935 after a surgical procedure, the band unsuccessfully attempted to stay together. Then Basie formed a new band, which included many Moten alumni, with the important addition of tenor player Lester Young. They played at the Reno Club and sometimes were broadcast on local radio. Late one night with time to fill, the band started improvising. Basie liked the results and named the piece “One O’Clock Jump“.[24] According to Basie, “we hit it with the rhythm section and went into the riffs, and the riffs just stuck. We set the thing up front in D-flat, and then we just went on playing in F”. It became his signature tune.[25

Ella with the Count. Gershwins’ “Lady Be Good”

At the end of 1936, Basie and his band, now billed as Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm, moved from Kansas City and honed their repertoire at a long engagement at the Grand Terrace Ballroom in Chicago.[26] Right from the start, Basie’s band was noted for its rhythm section. Another Basie innovation was the use of two tenor saxophone players; at the time, most bands had just one. When Lester Young complained of Herschel Evans‘ vibrato, the two were split apart and placed one on each side of the alto players, and soon Basie had the tenor players engaged in “duels”. Many other bands later adapted the split tenor arrangement.[27]

One of my favorite tunes!! “Make Me Rainbows”

In that city in October 1936, members of the band participated in a recording session which producer John Hammond later described as “the only perfect, completely perfect recording session I’ve ever had anything to do with”.[28] Hammond, according to Basie, had heard Basie’s band over short-wave radio, then he went to Kansas City to check them out.[29] The results were Lester Young’s earliest recordings. Those four sides were released under the name Jones-Smith Incorporated, because Basie had already signed with Decca Records but had not started recording for them (his first Decca session was January 1937). The sides were “Shoe Shine Boy”, “Evening”, “Boogie Woogie”, and “Oh, Lady Be Good”.[30]

By now, Basie’s sound was characterized by a “jumping” beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. His personnel around 1937 included: Lester Young and Herschel Evans (tenor sax), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), Walter Page (bass), Earle Warren (alto sax), Buck Clayton and Harry Edison (trumpet), Benny Morton and Dickie Wells (trombone).[31] Lester Young, known as “Prez” by the band, came up with nicknames for all the other band members. Basie became known as “Holy Man”, “Holy Main”, and just plain “Holy”.[32]

Basie favored blues, and he showcased some of the most notable blues singers of the era: Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams. He also hired arrangers who knew how to maximize the band’s abilities, such as Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.

When they arrived in New York, they made the Woodside Hotel their base (where they often rehearsed in the basement). Soon, they were booked at the Roseland Ballroom for the Christmas show. Basie recalled a review, which in his words was something like, “We caught the great Count Basie band which is supposed to be so hot he was going to come in here and set the Roseland on fire. Well, the Roseland is still standing”.[33] Compared to the reigning band of Fletcher Henderson, Basie’s band lacked polish and presentation.[34] Hammond advised and encouraged them, and they soon came up with some adjustments, including softer playing, more solos, more standards, and saving their hottest numbers for later in the show to give the audience a chance to warm up.[35] His first official recordings for Decca followed, under contract to agent MCA, including “Pennies from Heaven” and “Honeysuckle Rose“.[36]

Joe Wiliams and the Count Basie Orchestra, “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me.”

Hammond introduced Basie to Billie Holiday who was soon singing with the band. (Holiday didn’t record with Basie, however, as she had her own record contract and preferred working with small combos).[37] The band’s first appearance at the Apollo Theater followed, with vocalists Holiday and Rushing getting the most attention.[38] Eddie Durham came back to help with arranging and composing, but for the most part their numbers were worked out in rehearsal, with Basie, guiding the proceedings, and the results written out little if at all. Once they found what they liked, they usually were able to repeat it using their collective memory.[39]

Nancy Wilson with Joe Williams and the Count -Joe’s hit song with Count Basie, “All Right! Okay. You win!”

Next, Basie played at the Savoy, which was noted more for jitterbugging, while the Roseland was more of a place for fox-trots and congas.[40] In early 1938, the Savoy was the meeting ground for a “battle of the bands” with Chick Webb‘s group. Basie had Holiday and Webb countered with Ella Fitzgerald. As Metronome magazine proclaimed, “Basie’s Brilliant Band Conquers Chick’s”, then it went on in detail,

“Throughout the fight, which never let down in its intensity during the whole fray, Chick took the aggressive, with the Count playing along easily and, on the whole, more musically scientifically. Undismayed by Chick’s forceful drum beating, which sent the audience into shouts of encouragement and appreciation and casual beads of perspiration to drop from Chick’s brow onto the brass cymbals, the Count maintained an attitude of poise and self-assurance. He constantly parried Chick’s thundering haymakers with tantalizing runs and arpeggios which teased more and more force from his adversary”.[41]

The publicity over the battle, before and after, gave the Basie band a big boost and they gained wider recognition, as evidenced by Benny Goodman‘s recording of One O’Clock Jump shortly thereafter.[42]

A few months later, Holiday left for Artie Shaw‘s band, and was replaced by Helen Humes; she was also ushered in by John Hammond, and stayed with Basie for four years.[43] Co-arranger and trombone player Eddie Durham left for Glenn Miller‘s orchestra and was replaced by Dicky Wells. Basie’s 14-man band began playing at the Famous Door, a mid-town nightspot, with a CBS network feed and air conditioning. Their fame took a huge leap.[44] Adding to their play book, Basie received arrangements from Jimmy Mundy (who had also worked with Benny Goodman and Earl Hines) particularly for “Cherokee”, “Easy Does It”, and “Super Chief”.[45] In 1939, Basie and his band made a major cross-country tour, including their first West Coast dates. A few months later, Basie quit MCA and signed with the William Morris Agency, who got them better fees.[46]

“Everyday I Have The Blues”

In 1942, Basie moved to Queens with Catherine Morgan, after being married to her for a few years. On the West Coast, the band did a spot in Reveille With Beverly, a musical starring Ann Miller, and also a “Command Performance” for Armed Forces Radio with Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Carmen Miranda, Jerry Colonna, and singer Dinah Shore.[47] Other minor movie spots followed including Choo Choo Swing, Crazy House, Top Man, and Hit Parade of 1943.[48] They also started to record with RCA.[49] The war years caused a lot of member turn over, and the band worked many play dates with lower pay. Dance hall bookings were down sharply as swing began to fade, the effects of the musicians’ strikes of 1942-44 and 1948 began to be felt and the public’s growing taste for singers. The big band era appeared to be over after the war (c. 1946), and Basie disbanded the group. For awhile, he performed in combos, sometimes stretched to an orchestra. In 1950, he headlined the Universal-International short film ‘Sugar Chile’ Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet. He reformed his group as a 16-piece orchestra in 1952. Basie credits Billy Eckstine, a top male vocalist of the time, for prompting his return to Big Band and Norman Granz for getting him into the Birdland club and promoting the new band through recordings on the Mercury, Clef, and Verve labels.[50] The jukebox era had begun, and Basie shared the exposure along with early rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues artists. Basie’s new band was more of an ensemble group, with fewer solo turns, and relying less on “head” and more on written arrangements.

“Lil’ Darling”

Basie added touches of bebop “so long as it made sense”, and he required that “it all had to have feeling”. Basie’s band was sharing Birdland with bebop greats Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. Behind the occasional bebop solos, though, he always kept his strict rhythmic pulse, “so it doesn’t matter what they do up front; the audience gets the beat”.[51] Basie also added flute to some numbers, a novelty at the time that became widely copied.[52] Soon, they were touring and recording again. The new band included: Paul Campbell, Tommy Turrentine, Johnny Letman, and Idris Sulieman, Joe Newman (trumpet); Jimmy Wilkins, Benny Powell, Matthew Gee (trombone); Paul Quinichette and Floyd Johnson (tenor sax); Marshall Royal and Ernie Wilkins (alto sax); and Charlie Fowlkes (baritone sax).[53] Down Beat said “(Basie) has managed to assemble an ensemble that can thrill both the listener who remembers 1938 and the youngster who has never before heard a big band like this”.[54]

In 1954, the band made its first European tour. Jazz was especially strong in France, The Netherlands, and Germany in the 1950’s; These countries were the stomping grounds for many expatriate jazz stars who were either resurrecting their careers or sitting out the years of racial divide in the United States. Neal Hefti began to provide arrangements, notably “Lil Darlin’“. By the mid-1950s, Basie’s band had become one of the preeminent backing big bands for some of the most prominent jazz vocalists of the time. They also toured with the “Birdland Stars of 1955”, whose lineup included Sarah Vaughan, Erroll Garner, Lester Young, George Shearing, and Stan Getz.[55]

1962 Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan, “Lover Man”

In 1957, Basie released the live album Count Basie at Newport. “April in Paris” (arrangement by Wild Bill Davis) was a best-selling instrumental and the title song for the hit album.[56] The Basie band made two tours in the British Isles and on the second, they put on a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, along with Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, and Mario Lanza.[57] In 1959, Basie’s band recorded a “greatest hits” double album The Count Basie Story (Frank Foster, arranger) and “Basie and Eckstine, Inc.”: album featuring Billy Eckstine, Quincy Jones (as arranger) and the Count Basie Orchestra. It was released by Roulette Records, then later reissued by Capital Records.

Later that year, Basie appeared on a television special with Fred Astaire, featuring a dance solo to “Sweet Georgia Brown“, followed in January 1960 by Basie performing at one of the five John F. Kennedy Inaugural Balls.[58] That summer, Basie and Duke Ellington combined forces for the recording First Time! The Count Meets the Duke, each providing four numbers from their play books.[59]

Sarah with Count Basie, “Until I Met You”

During the balance of the 1960s, the band kept busy with tours, recordings, television appearances, festivals, Las Vegas shows, and travel abroad, including cruises. Some time around 1964, Basie adopted his trademark yachting cap.[60] Through steady changes in personnel, Basie led the band into the 1970s. Basie made a few more movie appearances, such as the Jerry Lewis film Cinderfella (1960) and the Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles (1974), playing his arrangement of “April in Paris“.

Basie died of pancreatic cancer in Hollywood, Florida on April 26, 1984 at the age of 79.[15]

Basie hitched his star to some of the most famous vocalists of the 1950s and 1960s, which helped keep the Big Band sound alive and added greatly to his recording catalog. Jimmy Rushing sang with Basie in the late 1930s. Joe Williams toured with the band and was featured on the 1957 album One O’Clock Jump, and 1956’s Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings, with “Every Day (I Have the Blues)” becoming a huge hit. With Billy Eckstine on the album Basie-Eckstine Inc., in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald made some memorable recordings with Basie, including the 1963 album Ella and Basie!. With the ‘New Testament’ Basie band in full swing, and arrangements written by a youthful Quincy Jones, this album proved a swinging respite from her Songbook recordings and constant touring she did during this period. She even toured with the Basie Orchestra in the mid-1970s, and Fitzgerald and Basie also met on the 1979 albums A Classy Pair, Digital III at Montreux, and A Perfect Match, the last two also recorded live at Montreux. In addition to Quincy Jones, Basie was using arrangers such as Benny Carter (Kansas City Suite), Neal Hefti (The Atomic Mr Basie), and Sammy Nestico (Basie-Straight Ahead).

Sinatra and Basie, “Luck Be A Lady”

Frank Sinatra recorded for the first time with Basie on 1962’s Sinatra-Basie and for a second studio album on 1964’s It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones. Jones also arranged and conducted 1966’s live Sinatra at the Sands. In May 1970, Sinatra performed in London‘s Royal Festival Hall with the Basie orchestra, in a charity benefit for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Sinatra later said of this concert “I have a funny feeling that those two nights could have been my finest hour, really. It went so well; it was so thrilling and exciting”.[61]

Judy Garland, and Count Basie, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”

Basie also recorded with Tony Bennett in the early 1960s — their albums together included the live recording at Las Vegas and Strike Up the Band, a studio album. Basie also toured with Bennett, including a date at Carnegie Hall. Other notable recordings were with Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby, and Sarah Vaughan. One of Basie’s biggest regrets was never recording with Louis Armstrong, though they shared the same bill several times.[62]

Quick Bio Facts:

Count BasieCount Basie AKA William Allen Basie

Born: 21-Aug1904
Birthplace: Red Bank, NJ
Died: 26-Apr1984
Location of death: Hollywood, FL
Cause of death: Cancer – Pancreatic
Remains: Buried, Pinelawn Memorial Park, Farmingdale, NY

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Pianist, Jazz Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Big band pianist

Father: Harvey Lee Basie
Mother: Lilly Ann Childs

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Phi Mu Alpha Fraternity (uncertain)
The Count Basie Orchestra Bandleader/Pianist 1937-49;1952-84
Kennedy Center Honor 1981
Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame 1981
NEA Jazz Master 1983
Grammy Best Jazz Performance, Group (1958)
Grammy Best Performance By A Dance Band (1958)
Grammy Best Performance By A Band For Dancing (1960)
Grammy Best Performance By An Orchestra – For Dancing (1963)
Grammy Best Jazz Performance By A Soloist (Instrumental) (1976)
Grammy Best Jazz Performance By A Big Band (1977)
Grammy Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band (1980)
Grammy Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band (1982)
Grammy Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band (1984)
Grammy Hall of Fame Award (1979)
Grammy Hall of Fame Award (1985)
Grammy Hall of Fame Award (1992)
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2002)

Blazing Saddles (7-Feb-1974) Himself
Made in Paris (9-Feb-1966)
Sex and the Single Girl (25-Dec-1964) Himself
Cinderfella (16-Dec-1960) Himself
Stage Door Canteen (24-Jun-1943) Himself
Reveille with Beverly (4-Feb-1943) Himself

Author of books:
Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie (1985, memoir, with Al bert Murray)

Sources: Wikipedia,,, youtube

Noël Coward

Sir Noël Peirce Coward (16 December 1899 – 26 March 1973) was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called “a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise”.[1]

Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy in London as a child, making his professional stage début at the age of eleven. As a teenager he was introduced into the high society in which most of his plays would be set. Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works (including the operetta Bitter Sweet and comic revues), poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel Pomp and Circumstance, and a three-volume autobiography. Coward’s stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs, such as “Mad Dogs and Englishmen“, “London Pride” and “I Went to a Marvellous Party“.

His plays and songs achieved new popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and his work and style continue to influence popular culture. Coward did not publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, but it was discussed candidly after his death by biographers including Graham Payn, his long-time partner, and in Coward’s diaries and letters, published posthumously. The former Albery Theatre (originally the New Theatre) in London was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in his honour in 2006.

Coward was born in 1899 in Teddington, England, a suburb of London. His parents were Arthur Sabin Coward (1856–1937), a piano salesman, and Violet Agnes Coward (1863–1954), daughter of Henry Gordon Veitch, a captain and surveyor in the Royal Navy.[2] Noël Coward was the second of their three sons, the eldest of whom had died in 1898 at the age of six.[3] Coward’s father lacked ambition and industry, and family finances were often poor. Coward was bitten by the performing bug early and appeared in amateur concerts by the age of seven. He attended the Chapel Royal Choir School as a young child. He had little formal schooling but was a voracious reader.[4]

From the revue ‘This year of grace’ 1927, “Dance Little Lady”

Encouraged by his ambitious mother, who sent him to a dance academy in London,[5] Coward’s first professional engagement was in January 1911 as Prince Mussel in the children’s play The Goldfish.[6] The leading actor-manager Charles Hawtrey, whom the young Coward idolised and from whom he learned a great deal about the theatre, cast him in the children’s play Where the Rainbow Ends. Coward played in the piece in 1911 and 1912 at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End.[8][9] In 1912 Coward also appeared at the Savoy Theatre in An Autumn Idyll (as a dancer in the ballet) and at the London Coliseum in A Little Fowl Play, by Harold Owen, in which Hawtrey starred.[10] Italia Conti engaged Coward to appear at the Liverpool Repertory Theatre in 1913, and in the same year he was cast as the Lost Boy Slightly in Peter Pan.[11] He reappeared in Peter Pan the following year, and in 1915 he was again in Where the Rainbow Ends.[12] He worked with other child actors in this period, including Hermione Gingold (whose mother threatened to turn “that naughty boy” out);[13] Fabia Drake; Esmé Wynne, with whom he collaborated on his earliest plays; Alfred Willmore, later known as Micheál MacLíammóir; and Gertrude Lawrence who, Coward wrote in his memoirs, “gave me an orange and told me a few mildly dirty stories, and I loved her from then onwards.”[9][14][15]

1962 Judy Garland and Noel Coward talking.

In 1913, when Coward was 14, he became the protégé and probably the lover of Philip Streatfeild, a society painter.[16] Streatfeild introduced him to Mrs Astley Cooper and her high society friends.[17] Streatfeild died from tuberculosis in 1915, but Mrs Astley Cooper continued to encourage her late friend’s protégé, who remained a frequent guest at her estate, Hambleton Hall.[18]

Coward continued to perform during most of World War I, appearing at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre in 1916 in The Happy Family[15] and on tour with Amy Brandon Thomas’s company in Charley’s Aunt. In 1917, he appeared in The Saving Grace, a comedy produced by Hawtrey. Coward recalled in his memoirs, “My part was reasonably large and I was really quite good in it, owing to the kindness and care of Hawtrey’s direction. He took endless trouble with me… and taught me during those two short weeks many technical points of comedy acting which I use to this day.”[19]


In 1918, Coward was drafted into the Artists Rifles but was assessed as unfit for active service because of a tubercular tendency, and he was discharged on health grounds after nine months.[20] That year he appeared in the D. W. Griffith film Hearts of the World in an uncredited role. He sold short stories to several magazines to help his family financially.[4] He also began writing plays, collaborating on the first two (Ida Collaborates (1917) and Women and Whisky (1918)) with his friend Esmé Wynne.[21] His first solo effort as a playwright was The Rat Trap (1918) which was eventually produced at the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead, in October 1926.[22] During these years, he met Lorn McNaughtan,[23] who became his private secretary and served in that capacity for more than forty years, until her death.[4] In 1920, at the age of 20, Coward starred in his own play, the light comedy I’ll Leave It to You. After a tryout in Manchester, it opened in London at the New Theatre (renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in 2006), his first full-length play in the West End.[24] Neville Cardus‘s praise in The Manchester Guardian was grudging.[25] Notices for the London production were mixed, but encouraging.[4] The Observer commented, “Mr Coward… has a sense of comedy, and if he can overcome a tendency to smartness, he will probably produce a good play one of these days.”[26] The Times, on the other hand, was enthusiastic: “It is a remarkable piece of work from so young a head – spontaneous, light, and always ‘brainy’.”[27]

1928 “A Room With A View”

The play ran for a month (and was Coward’s first play seen in America),[24] after which Coward returned to acting in works by other writers, starring as Ralph in The Knight of the Burning Pestle in Birmingham and then London.[28] He did not enjoy the role, finding Francis Beaumont and his sometime collaborator John Fletcher “two of the dullest Elizabethan writers ever known … I had a very, very long part, but I was very, very bad at it”.[29] Nevertheless, The Manchester Guardian thought that Coward got the best out of the role,[30] and The Times called the play “the jolliest thing in London”.[31]

Coward completed a one-act satire, The Better Half, about a man’s relationship with two women. It had a short run at The Little Theatre, London, in 1922. The critic St. John Ervine wrote of the piece, “When Mr Coward has learned that tea-table chitter-chatter had better remain the prerogative of women he will write more interesting plays than he now seems likely to write.”[32] The play was thought to be lost until a typescript was found in 2007 in the archive of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, the official censor of stage plays in the UK until 1968.[33]

In 1921, Coward made his first trip to America, hoping to interest producers there in his plays. Although he had little luck, he found the Broadway theatre stimulating.[4] He absorbed its smartness and pace into his own work, which brought him his first real success as a playwright with The Young Idea. The play opened in London in 1923, after a provincial tour, with Coward in one of the leading roles.[34] The reviews were good: “Mr Noël Coward calls his brilliant little farce a ‘comedy of youth’, and so it is. And youth pervaded the Savoy last night, applauding everything so boisterously that you felt, not without exhilaration, that you were in the midst of a ‘rag’.”[35] One critic, who noted the influence of George Bernard Shaw on Coward’s writing, thought more highly of the play than of Coward’s newly found fans: “I was unfortunately wedged in the centre of a group of his more exuberant friends who greeted each of his sallies with ‘That’s a Noëlism!'”[36] The play ran in London from 1 February to 24 March 1923, after which Coward turned to revue, co-writing and performing in André Charlot‘s London Calling![37]

In 1924, Coward achieved his first great critical and financial success as a playwright with The Vortex. The story is about a nymphomaniac socialite and her cocaine-addicted son (played by Coward). Some saw the drugs as a mask for homosexuality,[38] while Kenneth Tynan later described it as “a jeremiad against narcotics with dialogue that sounds today not so much stilted as high-heeled”.[39] The Vortex was considered shocking in its day for its depiction of sexual vanity and drug abuse among the upper classes. Its notoriety and fiery performances attracted large audiences, justifying a move from a small suburban theatre to a larger one in the West End.[40] Coward, still having trouble finding producers, raised the money to produce the play himself. During the run of The Vortex, Coward met Jack Wilson, an American stockbroker (later a director and producer), who became his business manager and lover. Wilson used his position to steal from Coward, but the playwright was in love and accepted both the larceny and Wilson’s heavy drinking.[41]

The success of The Vortex in both London and America caused a great demand for new Coward plays. In 1925 he premiered Fallen Angels, a three-act comedy that amused and shocked audiences with the spectacle of two middle-aged women slowly getting drunk while awaiting the arrival of their mutual lover.[42] Hay Fever, the first of Coward’s plays to gain an enduring place in the mainstream theatrical repertoire, also appeared in 1925. It is a comedy about four egocentric members of an artistic family who casually invite acquaintances to their country house for the weekend and bemuse and enrage each other’s guests. Some writers have seen elements of Coward’s old mentor, Mrs Astley Cooper, and her set in the characters of the family.[43] By the 1970s the play was recognised as a classic, described in The Times as a “dazzling achievement; like The Importance of Being Earnest, it is pure comedy with no mission but to delight, and it depends purely on the interplay of characters, not on elaborate comic machinery.”[44] By June 1925 Coward had four shows running in the West End: The Vortex, Fallen Angels, Hay Fever and On With the Dance.[45] Coward was turning out numerous plays and acting in his own works and others’. Soon, his frantic pace caught up with him, and he collapsed on stage in 1926 while starring in The Constant Nymph and had to take an extended rest in Hawaii.[41]

Other Coward works produced in the mid-to-late 1920s included the plays Easy Virtue (1926), a drama about a divorcée’s clash with her snobbish in-laws; The Queen Was in the Parlour, a Ruritanian romance; This Was a Man (1926), a comedy about adulterous aristocrats; The Marquise (1927), an eighteenth-century costume drama; Home Chat (1927), a comedy about a married woman’s fidelity; and the revues On With the Dance (1925) and This Year of Grace (1928). None of these shows has entered the regular repertoire, but the last introduced one of Coward’s best-known songs, “A Room with a View”.[46] His biggest failure in this period was the play Sirocco (1927), which concerns free love among the wealthy. It starred Ivor Novello, of whom Coward said, “the two most beautiful things in the world are Ivor’s profile and my mind”.[47] Theatregoers hated the play, showing violent disapproval at the curtain calls and spitting at Coward as he left the theatre.[41] Coward later said of this flop, “My first instinct was to leave England immediately, but this seemed too craven a move, and also too gratifying to my enemies, whose numbers had by then swollen in our minds to practically the entire population of the British Isles.”[48]

1955, “Nina”

By then one of the world’s highest-earning writers, with an annual income in 1929 of £50,000,[49] Coward thrived during the Great Depression, writing a succession of popular hits.[50] These ranged from large-scale spectaculars to intimate comedies. Examples of the former were the operetta Bitter Sweet (1929), about a woman who elopes with her music teacher, and the historical extravaganza Cavalcade (1931) at Drury Lane, about thirty years in the lives of two families, which required a huge cast, gargantuan sets and a complex hydraulic stage. Its 1933 film adaptation won the Academy Award for best picture. Coward’s intimate-scale hits of the period included Private Lives (1930) and Design for Living (1932). In Private Lives, Coward starred alongside his most famous stage partner, Gertrude Lawrence, together with the young Laurence Olivier. It was a highlight of both Coward’s and Lawrence’s career, selling out in both London and New York. Coward disliked long runs, and after this he made a rule of starring in a play for no more than three months at any venue.[41] Design for Living, written for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, was so risqué, with its theme of bisexuality and a ménage à trois, that Coward premiered it in New York, knowing that it would not survive the censor in London.[51]

In 1933, Coward wrote, directed and co-starred with French singer Yvonne Printemps in both London and New York productions of an operetta, Conversation Piece (1933).[41] Coward next wrote, directed and co-starred with Lawrence in Tonight at 8:30 (1936), a cycle of ten short plays that were shuffled to make a different playbill of three plays each night. One of these plays, Still Life, was expanded into the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter.[52] Tonight at 8:30 was followed by a musical, Operette (1937), from which the most famous number is “The Stately Homes of England”, and a revue entitled Set to Music (1938, a Broadway version of his 1932 London revue, Words and Music).[53] Coward’s last pre-war plays were This Happy Breed, a drama about a working-class family, and Present Laughter, a comic self-caricature with an egomaniac actor as the central character. These were first performed in 1942, although they were both written in 1939.[54]

Between 1929 and 1936, Coward recorded many of his best-known songs for His Master’s Voice (HMV), now reissued on CD, including the romantic “I’ll See You Again” from Bitter Sweet, the comic “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” from Words and Music, and “Mrs Worthington”.[55]

With the outbreak of World War II, Coward abandoned the theatre and sought official war work. After running the British propaganda office in Paris, where he concluded that “if the policy of His Majesty’s Government is to bore the Germans to death I don’t think we have time”,[56] he worked on behalf of British intelligence.[57] His task was to use his celebrity to influence American public and political opinion in favour of helping Britain.[58] He was frustrated by British press criticism of his foreign travel while his countrymen suffered at home, but he was unable to reveal that he was acting on behalf of the Secret Service.[59] In 1942, George VI wished to award Coward a knighthood for his efforts, but was dissuaded by Winston Churchill. Mindful of the public view of Coward’s flamboyant lifestyle, Churchill advised giving the official reason as Coward’s ₤200 fine for contravening currency regulations in 1941.[59]

Had the Germans invaded Britain, Coward was scheduled to be arrested and killed, as he was in The Black Book along with other figures such as Virginia Woolf, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell, C. P. Snow and H. G. Wells. When this came to light after the war, Coward wrote: “If anyone had told me at that time I was high up on the Nazi blacklist, I should have laughed … I remember Rebecca West, who was one of the many who shared the honour with me, sent me a telegram which read: ‘My dear – the people we should have been seen dead with’.”[60]

Churchill’s view was that Coward would do more for the war effort by entertaining the troops and the home front than by intelligence work: “Go and sing to them when the guns are firing – that’s your job!”[61] Coward, though disappointed, followed this advice. He toured, acted and sang indefatigably in Europe, Africa, Asia and America.[62] He wrote and recorded war-themed popular songs, including “London Pride” and “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans“. His London home was wrecked by German bombs in 1941, and he took up temporary residence at the Savoy Hotel.[63] During one air raid on the area around the Savoy he joined Carroll Gibbons and Judy Campbell in impromptu cabaret to divert the captive guests from their fears.[64] Another of Coward’s wartime projects, as writer, star, composer and co-director (alongside David Lean), was the naval film drama In Which We Serve. The film was popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and he was awarded an honorary certificate of merit at the 1943 Academy Awards ceremony.[65] Coward played a naval captain, basing the character on his friend Lord Louis Mountbatten. Lean went on to direct and adapt film versions of several Coward plays.[41]

Coward’s most enduring work from the war years was the hugely successful black comedy Blithe Spirit (1941), about a novelist who researches the occult and hires a medium. A séance brings back the ghost of his first wife, causing havoc for the novelist and his second wife.[41] With 1,997 consecutive performances, it broke box-office records for the run of a West End comedy, and was also produced on Broadway, where its original run was 650 performances.[66] The play was later filmed by David Lean. Coward toured during the war years in Blithe Spirit, alternating the piece with his comedy Present Laughter and his working-class drama This Happy Breed.

“Dont Cha” Live in Las Vegas, 1953

In Coward’s Middle East Diary, he made several statements that offended many Americans. In particular, he commented that he was “less impressed by some of the mournful little Brooklyn boys lying there in tears amid the alien corn with nothing worse than a bullet wound in the leg or a fractured arm”.[67] After protests from both The New York Times and the Washington Post, the Foreign Office urged Coward not to visit the United States in January 1945. He did not return to America again during the war. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Coward wrote an alternate history, Peace In Our Time, a play depicting an England occupied by Nazi Germany.[50]

Coward’s new plays after the war were moderately successful but failed to match the popularity of his pre-war hits.[68] Relative Values (1951) addresses the culture clash between an English aristocratic family and a Hollywood actress with matrimonial ambitions; South Sea Bubble (1951) is a political comedy set in a British colony; Quadrille (1952) is a drama about Victorian love and elopement; and Nude with Violin (1956, starring John Gielgud in London and Coward in New York) is a satire on modern art.[69] A revue, Sigh No More (1945), was a moderate success,[70] but two musicals, Pacific 1860 (1946), a lavish South Seas romance, and Ace of Clubs (1949), set in a night club, were financial failures.[71] In addition, his friends Charles Cochran and Gertrude Lawrence died in 1951 and 1952, respectively. Despite his disappointments during this period, Coward maintained a high public profile; his performance as King Magnus in Shaw’s The Apple Cart for the Coronation season of 1953, co-starring Margaret Leighton, received much coverage in the press,[72] and his cabaret act, honed during his wartime tours entertaining the troops, was a supreme success, first in London at the Café de Paris, and later in Las Vegas.[73] The theatre critic Kenneth Tynan wrote:

To see him whole, public and private personalities conjoined, you must see him in cabaret … he padded down the celebrated stairs … halted before the microphone on black-suede-clad feet, and, upraising both hands in a gesture of benediction, set about demonstrating how these things should be done. Baring his teeth as if unveiling some grotesque monument, and cooing like a baritone dove, he gave us “I’ll See You Again” and the other bat’s-wing melodies of his youth. Nothing he does on these occasions sounds strained or arid; his tanned, leathery face is still an enthusiast’s…. If it is possible to romp fastidiously, that is what Coward does. He owes little to earlier wits, such as Wilde or Labouchere. Their best things need to be delivered slowly, even lazily. Coward’s emerge with the staccato, blind impulsiveness of a machine-gun.[39]

In 1955, Coward’s cabaret act at Las Vegas, recorded live for the gramophone, and released as Noël Coward at Las Vegas [74] was so successful that CBS engaged him to write and direct a series of three 90-minute television specials for the 1955-1956 season. The first of these, Together With Music, paired Coward with Mary Martin, featuring him in many of the numbers from his Las Vegas act.[75] It was followed by productions of Blithe Spirit in which he starred with Claudette Colbert, Lauren Bacall and Mildred Natwick and This Happy Breed with Edna Best and Roger Moore. Despite excellent reviews, the audience viewing figures were moderate.[76]

During the 1950s and 1960s, Coward continued to write musicals and plays. After the Ball, his 1953 adaptation of Lady Windermere’s Fan, was the last musical he debuted in the West End; his last two musicals premiered on Broadway. Sail Away (1961), set on a luxury cruise liner, was Coward’s most successful post-war musical, with productions in America, Britain and Australia.[77] The Girl Who Came to Supper, a musical adaptation of The Sleeping Prince (1963), ran for only three months.[78] He directed the successful 1964 Broadway musical adaptation of Blithe Spirit, called High Spirits. Coward’s late plays include a farce, Look After Lulu! (1959), and a tragi-comic study of old age, Waiting in the Wings (1960), both of which were successful despite “critical disdain”.[79] Coward argued that the primary purpose of a play was to entertain, and he made no attempt at modernism, which he felt was boring to the audience although fascinating to the critics. His comic novel, Pomp and Circumstance (1960), about life in a tropical British colony, met with more critical success.[80] Coward’s final stage success came with Suite in Three Keys (1966), a trilogy set in a hotel penthouse suite. He wrote it as his swan song as a stage actor: “I would like to act once more before I fold my bedraggled wings.”[81] The trilogy gained glowing reviews and did good box office business in the UK.[82] In one of the three plays, A Song at Twilight, Coward abandoned his customary reticence on the subject and played an explicitly homosexual character. The daring piece earned Coward new critical praise.[83] He intended to star in the trilogy on Broadway but was too ill to travel. Only two of the Suite in Three Keys plays were performed in New York, with the title changed to Noël Coward in Two Keys, starring Hume Cronyn.[84]

Coward won new popularity in several notable films later in his career, such as Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Our Man in Havana (1959), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), Boom! (1968) and The Italian Job (1969).[85] Stage and film opportunities he turned down in the 1950s included an invitation to compose a musical version of Pygmalion (two years before My Fair Lady was written), and offers of the roles of the king in the original stage production of The King and I, and Colonel Nicholson in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai.[86] Invited to play the title role in the 1962 film Dr. No, he replied, “No, no, no, a thousand times, no.”[87] In the same year, he turned down the role of Humbert Humbert in Lolita, saying, “At my time of life the film story would be logical if the 12-year-old heroine was a sweet little old lady.”[88]

Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward.  “A Lifelong Friendship,” with a very brilliant introduction by the famous English Playwriter/Director Sir Noel Coward, before Marlene`s Performance at The Cafe De Paris in London 1954.

In the mid-1960s and early 1970s successful productions of his 1920s and 1930s plays, and new revues celebrating his music, including Oh, Coward! on Broadway and Cowardy Custard in London, revived Coward’s popularity and critical reputation. He dubbed this comeback “Dad’s Renaissance”.[89] This began with a hit 1963 revival of Private Lives in London and then New York.[90] Invited to direct Hay Fever with Edith Evans at the National Theatre, he wrote in 1964, “I am thrilled and flattered and frankly a little flabbergasted that the National Theatre should have had the curious perceptiveness to choose a very early play of mine and to give it a cast that could play the Albanian telephone directory.”[91]

Other examples of “Dad’s Renaissance” included a 1968 Off Broadway production of Private Lives at the Theatre de Lys starring Elaine Stritch, Lee Bowman and Betsy von Furstenberg, and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. Despite this impressive cast, Coward’s popularity had risen so high that the theatre poster for the production used an Al Hirschfeld caricature of Coward (pictured)[92] instead of an image of the production or its stars. The illustration captures how Coward’s image had changed by the 1960s: he was no longer seen as the smooth 1930s sophisticate, but as the doyen of the theatre. As The New Statesman wrote in 1964: “Who would have thought the landmarks of the Sixties would include the emergence of Noël Coward as the grand old man of British drama? There he was one morning, flipping verbal tiddlywinks with reporters about “Dad’s Renaissance”; the next he was… beside Forster, T. S. Eliot and the OMs, demonstrably the greatest living English playwright.”[93] Time magazine wrote that “in the ’60s… his best work, with its inspired inconsequentiality, seemed to exert not only a period charm but charm, period.”[1] By the end of the 1960s, Coward suffered from arteriosclerosis and, during the run of Suite in Three Keys, he struggled with bouts of memory loss.[94] This also affected his work in The Italian Job, and he retired from acting immediately afterwards.[95] He died at his home in Jamaica on 26 March 1973 of heart failure[44] and was buried three days later on the brow of Firefly Hill, Jamaica, overlooking the north coast of the island. A memorial service was held in St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 29 May 1973, for which the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, wrote and delivered a poem in Coward’s honour,[96] John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier read verse and Yehudi Menuhin played Bach. On 28 March 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled by the Queen Mother in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. Thanked by Coward’s partner, Graham Payn, for attending, the Queen Mother replied, “I came because he was my friend.”[97]

His classic 30’s recording on a 1958 EP, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”

Coward was knighted in 1969 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[98] He received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.[99]

The Noël Coward Theatre in St Martin’s Lane, originally opened in 1903 as the New Theatre and later called the Albery, was renamed in his honour after extensive refurbishment, re-opening on 1 June 2006. A statue of Coward was unveiled by the Queen Mother in the foyer of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1998.[100] There are also sculptures of Coward displayed in New York and Jamaica.[101] In 2008 an exhibition devoted to Coward was mounted at the National Theatre in London.[102] The exhibition was later hosted by the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.[103] Coward was homosexual but, following the convention of his times, this was never publicly mentioned. The critic Kenneth Tynan‘s description in 1953 was close to an acknowledgment of Coward’s sexuality: “Forty years ago he was Slightly in Peter Pan, and you might say that he has been wholly in Peter Pan ever since. No private considerations have been allowed to deflect the drive of his career; like Gielgud and Rattigan, like the late Ivor Novello, he is a congenital bachelor.”[39]

Coward firmly believed his private business was not for public discussion, considering “any sexual activities when over-advertised” to be tasteless.[104] Even in the 1960s, Coward refused to acknowledge his sexual orientation publicly, wryly observing, “There are still a few old ladies in Worthing who don’t know.”[105] Despite this reticence, he encouraged his secretary Cole Lesley to write a frank biography once Coward was safely dead.[106] Details of his sexual life emerged; for instance, from his youth Coward had a distaste for penetrative sex.[107][108]

Coward’s most important relationship, which began in the mid-1940s and lasted until his death, was with the South African stage and film actor Graham Payn.[109] Coward featured Payn in several of his London productions. Payn later co-edited with Sheridan Morley the collection of Coward’s diaries, published in 1982. Coward’s other relationships included the playwright Keith Winter, actors Louis Hayward and Alan Webb, his manager John (Jack) C. Wilson (1899–1961) and the composer Ned Rorem, who published details of their relationship in his diaries.[110] Coward had a 19-year friendship with Prince George, Duke of Kent, but biographers differ on whether it was platonic.[111] According to Payn, Coward maintained that it was simply a friendship.[112] Coward said, on the duke’s death, “I suddenly find that I loved him more than I knew.”[113]

Coward maintained close friendships with many women, including the actress and author Esmé Wynne-Tyson, his first collaborator and constant correspondent; the designer Gladys Calthrop; his secretary and close confidante Lorn Loraine; the actresses Gertrude Lawrence, Joyce Carey and Judy Campbell; and “his loyal and lifelong amitié amoureuse“, Marlene Dietrich.[114]

In his profession, Coward was widely admired and loved for his generosity and kindness to those who fell on hard times. Stories are told of the unobtrusive way in which he relieved the needs or paid the debts of old theatrical acquaintances who had no claim on him.[44] Coward was the president of The Actors’ Orphanage, which was supported by the theatrical industry. In that capacity, he befriended the young Peter Collinson, who was in the care of the orphanage. He became Collinson’s godfather and helped him to get started in show business. When Collinson was a successful director, he invited Coward to play a role in The Italian Job. Graham Payn also played a small role in the film.[115]

In the 1950s, Coward left the UK for tax reasons, receiving harsh criticism in the press.[116] He first settled in Bermuda but later bought houses in Jamaica and Switzerland (in the village of Les Avants, near Montreux), which remained his homes for the rest of his life.[117] His expatriate neighbours and friends included Joan Sutherland, David Niven, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards in Switzerland[118] and Ian Fleming and his wife Ann in Jamaica. Coward was a witness at the Flemings’ wedding, but his diaries record his exasperation with their constant bickering.[119]

On, “What’s My Line?”

Coward’s political views were conservative, but not unswervingly so: he despised the government of Neville Chamberlain for its policy of appeasing Nazi Germany, and he differed sharply with Winston Churchill over the abdication crisis of 1936. Whereas Churchill supported Edward VIII‘s wish to marry “his cutie”, Wallis Simpson, Coward thought the king irresponsible, telling Churchill, “England doesn’t wish for a Queen Cutie.”[120] Coward disliked propaganda in plays: “The theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion. What it most emphatically is not and never will be is a scruffy, ill-lit, fumed-oak drill hall serving as a temporary soap box for political propaganda.”[121] Nevertheless, his own views sometimes surfaced in his plays: both Cavalcade and This Happy Breed are “overtly Conservative political plays written in the Brechtian epic manner.”[122] In religion, Coward was agnostic. He wrote of his views, “Do I believe in God? I can’t say No and I can’t say Yes, To me it’s anybody’s guess.”[123]

Coward spelled his first name with the diæresis (“I didn’t put the dots over the ‘e’ in Noël. The language did. Otherwise it’s not Noël but Nool!”).[124] The press and many book publishers failed to follow suit, and his name was printed as ‘Noel’ in The Times, The Observer and other contemporary newspapers and books.[125]

The papers of Noël Coward are held in the University of Birmingham Special Collections.[126]

“Why”, asked Coward, “am I always expected to wear a dressing-gown, smoke cigarettes in a long holder and say ‘Darling, how wonderful’?”[127] The answer lay in Coward’s assiduous cultivation of a carefully crafted image. As a suburban boy who had been taken up by the upper classes, he rapidly acquired the taste for high life: “I am determined to travel through life first class.”[128] He first wore a dressing gown onstage in The Vortex and used the fashion in several of his other famous plays, including Private Lives and Present Laughter.[129][130] In connection with the National Theatre’s 2008 exhibition, The Independent commented, “His famous silk, polka-dot dressing gown and elegant cigarette holder both seem to belong to another era. But 2008 is proving to be the year that Britain falls in love with Noël Coward all over again.”[102]

As soon as he achieved success he began polishing the Coward image: an early press photograph showed him sitting up in bed holding a cigarette holder: “I looked like an advanced Chinese decadent in the last phases of dope.”[131] Soon after that, Coward wrote, “I took to wearing coloured turtle-necked jerseys, actually more for comfort than for effect, and soon I was informed by my evening paper that I had started a fashion. I believe that to a certain extent this was true; at any rate, during the ensuing months I noticed more and more of our seedier West-End chorus boys parading about London in them.”[132] He soon became more cautious about overdoing the flamboyance, advising Cecil Beaton to tone down his outfits: “It is important not to let the public have a loophole to lampoon you.”[133] However, Coward was happy to generate publicity from his lifestyle.[41] In 1969, he told Time magazine, “I acted up like crazy. I did everything that was expected of me. Part of the job.” Time concluded, “Coward’s greatest single gift has not been writing or composing, not acting or directing, but projecting a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise.”[1]

Coward’s distinctive clipped diction arose from his childhood: his mother was deaf and Coward developed his staccato style of speaking to make it easier for her to hear what he was saying; it also helped him eradicate a slight lisp.[134] His nickname, “The Master”, “started as a joke and became true”, according to Coward. It was used of him from the 1920s onwards.[135] Coward himself made light of it: when asked by a journalist why he was known as “The Master”, he replied, “Oh, you know – Jack of all trades, master of none.”[136] He could, however, joke about his own immodesty: “My sense of my importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my sense of my own importance to myself is tremendous.”[137] When a Time interviewer apologised, “I hope you haven’t been bored having to go through all these interviews for your [70th] birthday, having to answer the same old questions about yourself”, Coward rejoined, “Not at all. I’m fascinated by the subject.”[1] The playwright John Osborne said, “Mr Coward is his own invention and contribution to this century. Anyone who cannot see that should keep well away from the theatre.”[138] Kenneth Tynan wrote in 1964, “Even the youngest of us will know, in fifty years’ time, exactly what we mean by ‘a very Noel Coward sort of person’.”[39] In praise of Coward’s versatility, Lord Mountbatten said, in a tribute on Coward’s seventieth birthday, “There are probably greater painters than Noël, greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combined all fourteen different labels – The Master.”[139]

“Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Germans”

Tynan’s was the first generation of critics to realise that Coward’s plays might enjoy more than ephemeral success. In the 1930s, Cyril Connolly wrote that they were “written in the most topical and perishable way imaginable, the cream in them turns sour overnight”.[140] What seemed daring in the 1920s and 1930s came to seem old-fashioned in the 1950s, and Coward never replicated the success of his pre-war plays.[39] By the 1960s, however, it was becoming clear that underneath the witty dialogue and the Art Deco glamour of the inter-war years, Coward’s best plays also dealt with recognisable people and familiar relationships.[141] By the time of his death, The Times was writing of him, “None of the great figures of the English theatre has been more versatile than he”, and the paper ranked his plays in “the classical tradition of Congreve, Sheridan, Wilde and Shaw“.[44]

A symposium published in 1999 to mark the centenary of Coward’s birth listed some of his major productions scheduled for the year in Britain and North America, including Ace of Clubs, After the Ball, Blithe Spirit, Cavalcade, Easy Virtue, Hay Fever, Present Laughter, Private Lives, Sail Away, A Song at Twilight, The Young Idea and Waiting in the Wings, with stars including Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Harris, Ian McKellen, Corin Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave and Elaine Stritch.[142] In another tribute, Tim Rice said of Coward’s songs: “The wit and wisdom of Noël Coward’s lyrics will be as lively and contemporary in 100 years’ time as they are today”,[121] and many have been recorded by Paul McCartney, Sting, Elton John, Robbie Williams, Pet Shop Boys, The Divine Comedy, Vic Reeves, Ian Bostridge, Damon Albarn, Michael Nyman, and others.[143][144][145]

Coward’s music and writings and his characteristic voice and style have been widely parodied and imitated, for instance by Jonathan Meese and in Monty Python, Round the Horne and Privates on Parade.[146][147] Coward has frequently been depicted as a character in plays,[148][149] films, television and radio shows, for example, in the 1969 Julie Andrews film Star! (in which Coward was portrayed by his godson, Daniel Massey),[150] the award-winning BBC sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart[151] and a BBC Radio 4 series.[152][153] On stage, characters based on Coward have included Beverly Carlton in the 1939 Broadway play The Man Who Came to Dinner.[154] A play about the friendship between Coward and Marlene Dietrich, called Lunch with Marlene, by Chris Burgess, ran at the New End Theatre in 2008. The second act presents a musical revue, including Coward songs such as “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans”.[155]

Coward was an early admirer of the plays of Harold Pinter, and backed Pinter’s film version of The Caretaker with a £1,000 investment.[156] Some critics have detected Coward’s influence in Pinter’s plays.[157] Tynan compared Pinter’s “elliptical patter” to Coward’s “stylised dialogue”.[156] Pinter returned the compliment by directing the National Theatre’s revival of Blithe Spirit in 1976.[158]

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube,,


  • The Last Chapter (Ida Collaborates) (1917), one-act comedy, co-written with Esmé Wynne under their joint pen name, Esnomel
  • Woman and Whisky (1918), one-act play, co-written with Wynne
  • The Rat Trap (1918), play in four acts; fp 1926
  • I’ll Leave It to You (1920), light comedy in three acts
  • The Young Idea (1922), comedy of youth in three acts
  • Sirocco (1921), play in three acts, revised 1927
  • The Better Half (1922), comedy in one act
  • The Queen Was in the Parlour (1922), play in three acts, fp 1926
  • Weatherwise (1923), comedy in two scenes, fp 1932
  • Fallen Angels (1925), comedy in three acts
  • The Vortex (1924), play in three acts
  • Hay Fever (1925), comedy
  • Easy Virtue (1925), play in three acts
  • Semi-Monde originally Ritz Bar (1926), play in three acts, fp 1988
  • This Was a Man (1926), comedy in three acts
  • The Marquise (1927), comedy in three acts
  • Home Chat (1927), play in three acts
  • Private Lives (1930), intimate comedy in three acts
  • Post Mortem (1932), play in eight scenes, fp 1992
  • Cavalcade (1931), play in three parts
  • Design For Living (1933), comedy in three acts
  • Point Valaine (1934), play in three acts

Revues, musicals, operetta and songs


Coward wrote more than three hundred songs. The Noël Coward Society’s website, drawing on performing statistics from the publishers and the Performing Rights Society, names “Mad About the Boy” (from Words and Music) as Coward’s most popular song, followed, in order, by:

  • I’ll See You Again” (Bitter Sweet)
  • Mad Dogs and Englishmen” (Words and Music)
  • “If Love Were All” (Bitter Sweet)
  • “Someday I’ll Find You” (Private Lives)
  • “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart” (Conversation Piece)
  • London Pride” (1941)
  • “A Room With a View” (This Year of Grace)
  • “Mrs Worthington” (1934)
  • “Poor Little Rich Girl” (On With the Dance)
  • “The Stately Homes of England” (Operette)

In the society’s second tier of favourites are:

  • “The Party’s Over Now” (Words and Music)
  • “Dearest Love” (Operette)
  • “Dear Little Café” (Bitter Sweet)
  • “Parisian Pierrot” (London Calling!)
  • “Men About Town” (Tonight at 8:30)
  • “Twentieth Century Blues” (Cavalcade)
  • “Uncle Harry” (Pacific 1860)
  • Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans” (1943)
  • “There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner” (Globe Review)
  • “Dance, Little Lady” (This Year of Grace)
  • “Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?” (Tonight at 8:30)
  • I Went to a Marvellous Party” (Set to Music)
  • “Nina” (Sigh No More)
  • “A Bar on the Piccola Marina” (1954)
  • “Why Must the Show Go On?” (Together With Music)
  • “Sail Away” (Ace of Clubs and Sail Away)
  • “Zigeuner” (Bitter Sweet)[46]

As a songwriter, Coward was deeply influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan, although he shared a dislike of their works common in his generation.[159][160] He recalled: “I was born into a generation that still took light music seriously. The lyrics and melodies of Gilbert and Sullivan were hummed and strummed into my consciousness at an early age. My father sang them, my mother played them… my aunts and uncles, who were legion, sang them singly and in unison at the slightest provocation.”[161] His colleague Terence Rattigan wrote that as a lyricist Coward was “the best of his kind since W. S. Gilbert.”[162]

Coward’s plays adapted for film include:

  • This Happy Breed, Universal (1944)
  • Brief Encounter (based on Still Life), Cineguild (1945)
  • The Astonished Heart, Universal (1950)
  • Tonight at Eight-Thirty (based on Ways and Means, Red Peppers, and Fumed Oak), British Film Makers (1953)
  • A Matter of Innocence (based on his short story “Pretty Polly Barlow”), Universal (1968)
  • Relative Values (2000)[163]

Films in which he participated as actor, screenwriter, director or producer are as follows:[163]