Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012[2]) was an American actress and comedienne. She created a stage persona of a wild-haired, eccentrically dressed housewife who makes self-deprecating jokes about her age and appearance, her terrible cooking, and a husband named “Fang”, while pretending to smoke from a long cigarette holder. Diller’s signature was her unusual laugh.

Phyllis Diller and Liberace at the piano

Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, the daughter of Frances Ada (née Romshe) (January 12, 1881 – January 26, 1949) and Perry Marcus Driver (June 13, 1862 – August 12, 1948), an insurance agent.[3] She has German and Irish ancestry (the surname “Driver” had been changed from “Treiber” several generations back).[4] Her mother was about twenty years younger than her father.[5] Diller was raised a Methodist.[6] Diller attended Lima’s Central High School, then studied for three years at Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. She then transferred to Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, where she met fellow “Lima-ite” and classmate Hugh Downs.

Diller was a housewife, mother, and advertising copywriter. During World War II, Diller lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan, while her husband worked at the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant. In the mid-1950s, she made appearances on The Jack Paar Show and was a contestant on Groucho Marx‘s quiz show You Bet Your Life.[7]

Although she made her career in comedy, Diller had studied the piano for many years. She decided against a career in music after hearing her teachers and mentors play with much more ability than she thought that she would be able to achieve. She still played in her private life, however, and owned a custom-made harpsichord.

Diller began her career working at KROW radio in Oakland in 1952. In November of that year, she began filming a television show titled Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker.[8] The 15-minute series was a BART (Bay Area Radio-Television) production, directed for television by ABC‘s Jim Baker. In the mid 1950s, while residing in the East Bay city of Alameda, California, Diller was employed at KSFO radio in San Francisco. Bill Anderson wrote and produced a television show at KGO-TV called “The Belfast Pop Club,” which was hosted by Don Sherwood. “Pop Club” was a half-hour show that combined playing records with “experts” rating them, and dancing girls encouraging audience participation. The show was an early advertisement for Belfast Root Beer, known today asMug Root Beer. Anderson invited her onto his show on April 23, 1955 as a vocalist.[9]

On the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969

Diller first appeared as a stand-up at The Purple Onion on March 7, 1955 and remained there for 87 straight weeks. Diller appeared on “Del Courtney’s Showcase” on KPIX television on November 3, 1956. After moving to Webster Groves, in St Louis in 1961, Diller honed her act in St. Louis clubs such as Gaslight Square’s Crystal Palace. Mid-1960s – St Louis was always home to her. Getting her first start on the Charlotte Peters Show in St Louis, were many got their start. Diller’s fame grew when she co-starred withBob Hope in 23 television specials and three films in the 1960s: Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!Eight on the Lam, and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell. Although only Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! performed well at the box office, Hope invited Diller to perform with him in Vietnam in 1966 with his USO troupe during the height of the Vietnam War.

“The Magic of Believing”

Throughout the 1960s, she appeared regularly as a special guest on many television programs. For example, she appeared as one of

the What’s My Line? Mystery Guests. The blindfolded panel on that evening’s broadcast included Sammy Davis, Jr., and they were able to discern Diller’s identity in just three guesses. Also, Diller made regular cameo appearances making her trademark wisecracks on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Self-deprecating to a fault, a typical Diller joke had her running after a garbage truck pulling away from her curb. “Am I too late?” she’d yell. The driver’s reply: “No, jump right in!”

Though her main claim to fame is her stand-up comedy act, Diller has also appeared in other films besides the three mentioned above, including a cameo appearance as Texas Guinan, the wisecracking nightclub hostess in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass. She appeared in more than a dozen, usually low-budget, movies, including voice work as The Monster’s Mate in the Rankin/Bass animated film Mad Monster Party (1967), co-starring Boris Karloff.

Diller also starred in two short-lived TV series: the half-hour sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show) on ABC from 1966–1967, and the variety show The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show on NBC in 1968. More recent television appearances for Diller have included at least three episodes between 1999–2003[10] on the long-running family drama 7th Heaven, in one of which she got drunk while cooking dinner for the household, and a 2002 episode of The Drew Carey Show,[10] as Mimi Bobek’s grandmother. She posed for Playboy, but the photos were never run in the magazine.[11] Her voice can be heard in several animated TV shows, including The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)[10] as herself, Hey Arnold! as Arnold’s grandpa’s sister Mitzi, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002)[10] as Jimmy’s grandmother, and on Family Guy in 2006[10] as Peter Griffin’s mother, Thelma Griffin.

Diller in 1973

Beginning December 26, 1969,[12] she had a three-month run[13] on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! (opposite Richard Deacon)[14] as the second to last in a succession of replacements for Carol Channing in the title role, which included Ginger RogersMartha RayeBetty Grable, and Pearl Bailey. After Diller’s stint, Ethel Merman took over the role until the end of the show’s run in December 1970.[15][16]

In 1993, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Talking about her “look.”

In 1998, Diller provided the vocals for the Queen in Disney/Pixar‘s animated movie A Bug’s Life. In 2005, Diller was featured as one of many contemporary comics in a documentary film, The Aristocrats. Diller, who avoids blue comedy, did a version of an old, risqué vaudeville routine in which she describes herself passing out when she first heard the joke, forgetting the actual content of the joke.

In 2000, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television[17]

Singing “You’re Different”

In 2003, after hearing of the donation of Archie Bunker’s chair to the Smithsonian Institution, Diller opened her doors to the National Museum of American History and offered up some of her most iconic costume pieces and her gag file, a steel cabinet with 48 file-drawers containing more than 50,000 jokes and gags typewritten on index cards by Diller during her career. From August 12-October 28, 2011, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History displayed Diller’s gag file and some of the objects that became synonymous with her comedic persona-an unkempt wig, wrist-length gloves, cloth-covered ankle boots and a bejeweled cigarette holder.[18]

On January 24, 2007, she appeared on The Tonight Show and performed stand-up, before chatting with Jay Leno.

Diller had a cameo appearance in an episode of ABC’s Boston Legal on April 10, 2007. She appeared as herself, confronting William Shatner‘s character Denny Crane, alleging to have had a torrid love affair with him. They seemed to have enjoyed a romantic moment in afoxhole during World War II.

Phyllis Diller arrives at Korat Air Base, Thailand for the Bob Hope Christmas show in 1966.

Diller was a member of the Society of Singers, which supports singers in need. In June 2001 at the request of fellow Society member andproducer Scott Sherman, she appeared at Kansas City and Philadelphia Pride events. The mayor of Philadelphia officially proclaimed June 8, 2001, as “Phyllis Diller Day.” She was presented an official proclamation onstage to a standing ovation. In 2006, Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom proclaimed February 5, 2006 “Phyllis Diller Day in San Francisco,” which she accepted by phone.

She also recorded at least five comedy LP records, one of which was Born To Sing, released as Columbia CS 9523.

Although known for decades for smoking from long cigarette holders in her comedy act, Diller was a lifelong nonsmoker, and the cigarette holders were stage props that she had specially constructed. Diller, a longtime resident of the Brentwood area of Los AngelesCalifornia, credited much of her success to Bob Hope, in large part because he included her in many of his films and his Vietnam USO shows. She was an accomplished pianist as well as a painter. Diller, a longtime resident of the Brentwood area of Los AngelesCalifornia, credited much of her success to Bob Hope, in large part because he included her in many of his films and his Vietnam USO shows. She was an accomplished pianist as well as a painter. Diller was married and divorced twice. She also dated Earl “Madman” Muntz, a pioneer in oddball TV and radio ads. She had six[19]children from her marriage to her first husband, Sherwood Anderson Diller. Her first child was Peter (b. 1940;[20] d. 1998 of cancer).[21]Her second child Sally, born in 1944,[19] has suffered from schizophrenia most of her life.[22] Her third child, a son, lived for only two weeks in an incubator.[23] A daughter, Suzanne, was born in 1946,[24] followed by another daughter Stephanie (b. 1948[25] d. 2002 of a stroke)[26] and a son Perry (b. 1950).[27]Diller’s second husband was actor Warde Donovan (born Warde Tatum), whom she married on 7 October 1965 and divorced the following year; they apparently re-married and divorced for a second time in 1974.[28] Her youngest son Perry, now 62, oversaw her affairs until her death. Diller is not the mother of actress Susan Lucci, nor TV personality Dorothy Lucey, despite urban legends to that effect, frequently passed through viral emails under trivia headings such as “Did You Know…?”[29] The husband frequently mentioned in her act, “Fang”, was entirely fictional, and not based on any of her actual husbands.

On her tv series, The Pruitts of South Hampton

Diller candidly discussed her plastic surgery, a series of procedures first undertaken when she was 55. In her 2005 autobiography, she wrote that she had undergone “fifteen different procedures”.[30] Her numerous surgeries were the subject of a 20/20 segment February 12, 1993.

Diller suffered medical problems, including a heart attack in 1999. After a hospital stay she was fitted with a pacemaker and released. A bad fall resulted in her being hospitalized for neurological tests and pacemaker replacement in 2005. She subsequently retired from stand-up comedy appearances.

On July 11, 2007, USA Today reported that she had fractured her back and had to cancel a Tonight Show appearance, during which she had planned to celebrate her 90th birthday. On January 4, 2011, she appeared on CNN‘s “Anderson Cooper 360” as part of a panel of comedians.

She died in her sleep August 20, 2012 at the age of 95, She was found by her son who said she had a smile on her face.

Rest soundly Ms Diller. You have made millions of people laugh and enjoy life more because of your inimitable talent, class and style.

Sources: wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com

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Marvin Hamlisch

By Robert Simonson
Playbill.com 07 Aug 2012

Marvin Hamlisch, who achieved theatre immortality as the composer of the iconic musical A Chorus Line, died Aug. 7 following a brief illness. He was 68.

Mr. Hamlisch’s other theatre works included the musicals They’re Playing Our Song, Jean Seberg, Smile, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. He also wrote songs for Nora Ephron‘s playImaginary Friends. His latest show, The Nutty Professor, recently opened in Tennessee. But it was with the groundbreaking A Chorus Line—which told of the frustrations and worries of a group of anonymous dancers trying out for a Broadway musical—that he made his mark as a theatre figure.

He was already famous as an all-around wunderkind when he began work onA Chorus Line. A child prodigy, he was accepted into Juilliard at the age of six—the youngest child ever to be welcomed by the august Manhattan institution. His first Broadway job was as rehearsal pianist for Funny Girlstarring Barbra Streisand—a professional relationship that would last his entire life. Producer Sam Spiegel hired him to play piano at his parties, where he made connections, leading to his writing his first film score, for “The Swimmer” starring Burt Lancaster. Many more film scores followed.

It seemed his fate to brush up against show-business legends while on his way up the ladder. He wrote songs for Liza Minnelli, worked with Judy Garland and was accompanist and straight man for Groucho Marx during a 1974-75 tour.

“The Entertainer”

Professional acknowledgment came easy in his early years. Before he was 30, he had received three Oscars, for his score and song to “The Way We Were” and his adaptations of Scott Joplin ragtime tunes in “The Sting,” which helped usher in a Joplin revival. And that was all in 1973. He began to be a regular guest on talk shows and was called “the best-known movie composer since Henry Mancini.”

Mr. Hamlisch is one of only 11 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. On top of this, he also won the Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line.Aside from director-choreographer Michael Bennett, Mr. Hamlisch was by far the most accomplished and famous artist invited to participate in the creation of A Chorus Line. The unorthodox show—a prime example of what came to be known as the “concept musical”—derived from 30 hours of taped confessions of a group of theatre gypsies and chorines. From these recordings, Bennett shaped a show about the strivings, hopes, dreams and fears of the unsung and uncelebrated members of the theatre community. The show was trail-blazing in eschewing a linear plot, dealing with contemporary issues such as homosexuality and abortion in frank terms, and lacking a single headlining star.

“One” from “Chorus Line”

Hamlisch was drafted by Bennett and paired with the fussy, eccentric lyricist Ed Kleban, a former executive at Columbia Records with no previous theatre credits. It was an odd couple pairing if there ever was one, but it produced a timeless result. The score was episodic, with each song telling the life story of one or more characters. The show included two modern classics: the hopeful “What I Did for Love,” which Kleban and Mr. Hamlisch reportedly wrote under protest, as they considered it a commercial “sell-out” number; and “One,” the show’s finale. It’s throbbing, hop-step opening vamp is one of the best known theatre anthems in musical history, and is known to millions.

“The Way We Were”

Marvin Hamlisch was born June 2, 1944, into a musical family. His father Max Hamlisch was an accordionist and band leader. He began playing piano when he was five. “I started studying music at the age of five and a half,” he remembered later. “My older sister was taking piano lessons. When her teacher left our apartment, I would get up on the piano bench and start picking out the notes that were part of my sister’s lessons.” His song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” written while he was a teenager, was a hit for Lesley Gore in 1963.

He followed up A Chorus Line with another hit, though one of a far smaller scale. They’re Playing Our Song had lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and a book by Neil Simon. The two-character musical was based on the real-life relationship between Hamlisch and Sager, and follows the two mismatched songwriters—he is focused and all business, she is flightily and distracted—as they go through a series of bumps in forging both a professional and romantic relationship. After a tryout in Los Angeles, it ran for two-and-a-half years on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical.

 

“Tits and Ass” Chorus Line

Mr. Hamlisch’s untrammeled string of successes during the 1970s were such that he had a hard time following them up. The next 30 years of his career were something of an anti-climax. That A Chorus Line proved one of the greatest popular successes of all time, and was accorded the title of “genius work” by critics, meant no other show he composed could quite measure up.Jean Seberg, a musical about the life of the actress, failed in London and never came to New York. The Broadway runs of Smile (1986) and The Goodbye Girl (1993) were both underwhelming. Sweet Smell of Success(2002), based on the classic 1950s film about Broadway’s seamy underbelly, ran only two months.

His many film scores included “Ordinary People,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Three Men and a Baby,” “Ice Castles,” “Take the Money and Run” and “The Informant!” He co-wrote the song “Nobody Does It Better” for the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

In recent years, he composed some classical works, and frequently conducted major symphony orchestras.

Other Sources: YouTube, IMDB.com

Celeste Holm

Celeste Holm (April 29, 1917 – July 15, 2012) was an American stage, film and television actress, known for her Academy Award-winning performance in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), as well as for her Oscar-nominated performances in Come to the Stable(1949) and All About Eve (1950) and originating the role of Ado Annie in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! (1943).

Born and raised in New York City, Holm grew up as an only child. Her mother, Jean Parke, was an American portrait artist and author; her father, Theodor Holm, was a Norwegian businessman whose company provided marine adjustment services for Lloyd’s of London. Because of her parents’ occupations, she traveled often during her youth and attended various schools in Holland, France and the United States. She graduated from University High School for Girls in Chicago, where she performed in many school stage productions. She then studied drama at the University of Chicago before becoming a stage actress in the late 1930s.

Holm’s first professional theatrical role was in a production of Hamlet starring Leslie Howard. Her first role on Broadway was a small part in 1938 comedy Gloriana, which lasted five performances. Her first major Broadway part was as Mary L. in William Saroyan‘s 1940 revival of The Time of Your Life co-starring fellow newcomer Gene Kelly. The role that got her the most recognition from critics and audiences was Ado Annie in the flagship Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Oklahoma! in 1943.

After she starred in the Broadway production of Bloomer Girl20th Century Fox signed Holm to a movie contract in 1946. She made her film debut that same year in Three Little Girls in Blue, making a startling entrance in a “Technicolor red” dress singing “Always a Lady,” a belting Ado Annie-type song, although the character was different—a lady. In 1947 she won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in Gentleman’s Agreement. After her performance in All About Eve, however, Holm realized she preferred live theater to movie work, and only accepted a few select film roles over the following decade. The most successful of these were the comedy The Tender Trap (1955) and the musical High Society (1956), both of which co-starred Frank Sinatra. She starred as a professor-turned-reporter in New York City in the CBS television series Honestly, Celeste! (fall 1954) and was thereafter a panelist onWho Pays? (1959). She also appeared several times on ABC‘s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.

In My Own Little Corner

In 1958, she starred as a reporter in an unsold television pilot called The Celeste Holm Show, based on the book No Facilities for Women. Holm also starred in the musical The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall. In 1965, she played the Fairy Godmother alongside Lesley Ann Warren in the CBS production of Cinderella. In 1970-71, she was featured on theNBC sitcom Nancy, with Renne Jarrett, John Fink and Robert F. Simon. In the story line, Holm played Abby Townsend, the press secretary of the First Lady of the United Statesand the chaperon of Jarrett’s character, Nancy Smith, the President’s daughter.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Holm did more screen acting, with roles in films such as Tom Sawyer and Three Men and a Baby, and in television series (often as a guest star) such as ColumboThe Eleventh HourArchie Bunker’s Place and Falcon Crest. In 1979, she played the role of First Lady Florence Harding in the television mini-series,Backstairs at the White House. She was a regular on the ABC soap opera Loving, appearing first in 1986 in the role of Lydia Woodhouse and again as Isabelle Dwyer Alden #2 from 1991 to 1992. She last appeared on television in the CBS television series Promised Land (1996–99).

Holm received numerous honors during her lifetime, including the 1968 Sarah Siddons Award for distinguished achievement in Chicago theatre; she was appointed to the National Arts Council by then-President Ronald Reagan, appointed Knight, First Class of the Order of St. Olav by King Olav of Norway in 1979,[1] and inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1992. She remained active for social causes as a spokesperson for UNICEF, and for occasional professional engagements. From 1995 she was Chairman of the Board of Arts Horizons, a not-for-profit arts-in-education organization.

“I Can’t Say No”

In 2006, Holm was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University.[2]

Holm was a guest at the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Aberdeen, Maryland. Some of the movies in which she appeared were screened at the festival, and the un-aired television pilot for Meet Me in St. Louis was shown. She received an honorary award during the dinner banquet at the close of the event.

Personal life

Attending the Academy Awards in 1988

  • Holm’s first marriage was to Ralph Nelson in 1936.[3] Their son, Internet pioneer and sociologist Ted Nelson (né Theodor Holm Nelson; born 1937), was raised by his maternal grandparents. The marriage ended in 1939. In his 2010 memoir, Possiplex, her son, credited with coining the term “hypertext”, described this and other choices as “entirely the right decisions”. He reportedly did not name his mother in the book.[4]
  • Holm married Francis Emerson Harding Davies, an English auditor, on January 7, 1940. Davies was a Roman Catholic, and she was received into the Roman Catholic Church for the purposes of their 1940 wedding; the marriage was dissolved on May 8, 1945.[5]
  • From 1946 to 1952, Holm was married to airline public relations executive A. Schuyler Dunning, with whom she had a second son, businessman Daniel Dunning.[6]
  • From 1961 to 1996, she was married to fellow thespian Wesley Addy (1913–1996), until his death at age 83 in 1996.
  • On April 29, 2004, her 87th birthday, Holm married opera singer Frank Basile, age 41.[7] The couple met in October 1999 at a fundraiser at which Basile was hired to sing. Soon after their marriage, Holm and Basile sued to overturn the irrevocable trust that was created in 2002 by Daniel Dunning, Holm’s younger son. The trust was ostensibly set up to shelter Holm’s financial assets from taxes, although Basile contended the real purpose of the trust was to keep him away from her money. The lawsuit began a five-year battle with her sons, which cost millions of dollars, and according to an article in The New York Times, left Holm and her husband with a fragile hold on their home, which Holm purchased for $10,000 cash in 1953 from her film earnings, and which is now believed to be worth at least $2,000,000

According to her husband, Holm had been treated for memory loss since 2002, suffered skin cancer, bleeding ulcers and a collapsed lung, and had hip replacements and pacemakers.[4][8]

In June 2012, Holm was admitted to New York’s Roosevelt Hospital with dehydration. She suffered a heart attack on July 13 in the facility, dying at home on July 15[9] where she chose to spend her final days. She is survived by husband Frank Basile and her sons.[10][11][12]

 Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, IMDB.com, NMDB.com

Filmography

Stage appearances

  • Gloriana [Broadway] – Cast as Lady Mary. (1938)
  • Another Sun [Broadway] – Cast as Maria. (1940)
  • The Return of the Vagabond [Broadway] – Cast as His Daughter. (1940)
  • The Time of Your Life [Broadway] – Cast as Mary L. (1940)
  • Eight O’Clock Tuesday [Broadway] – Cast as Marcia Godden. (1941)
  • My Fair Ladies [Broadway] – Cast as Lady Keith-Odlyn. (1941)
  • Papa is All [Broadway] – Cast as Emma. (1942)
  • All the Comforts of Home [Broadway] – Cast as Fifi Oritanski. (1942)
  • The Damask Cheek [Broadway] – Cast as Calla Longstreth. (1942)
  • Oklahoma! [Broadway] – Original Production – Cast as Ado Annie Carnes. (1943)
  • Bloomer Girl [Broadway] – Original Production – Cast as Evelina. (1944)
  • Affairs of State [Broadway] – Cast as Irene Elliott. (1950)
  • The King and I [Broadway] – Original Production – Cast as Anna Leonowens [Replacement]. (1951)
  • Anna Christie [Broadway] – Cast as Anna Christopherson. (1952)
  • His and Hers [Broadway] – Cast as Maggie Palmer. (1954)
  • Interlock [Broadway] – Cast as Mrs. Price. (1958)
  • Third Best Sport [Broadway] – Cast as Helen Sayre. (1958)
  • Invitation to a March [Broadway] – Original Production – Cast as Camilla Jablonski. (1960)
  • Mame [Broadway] – Original Production – Cast as Mame Dennis [Replacement]. (1966)
  • Candida [Broadway] -Cast as Candida. (1970)
  • Babylove [Replacement].
  • The Grass Harp [Broadway] – Original Production. (1971)
  • Mama [Broadway] – Closed on the road. (1972)
  • Habeas Corpus [Broadway] – Cast as Lady Rumpers – A Pillar of the Empire. (1974)
  • The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall [Broadway] – Original Broadway Production – Cast as Julia Faysle Headmistress.(1979)
  • I Hate Hamlet [Broadway] – Cast as Lillian Troy. (1991)
  • Allegro [Off-Broadway] – Encores! Concert – Cast as Grandma Taylor. (1994)

TV appearances

Kenny Rankin

Kenny Rankin (Los Angeles, February 10, 1940 – June 7, 2009) was an American pop and jazz singer and songwriter originally from the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, New York.

Rankin was raised in New York and was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. Early in his career he worked as a singer-songwriter, and developed a considerable following during the 70s with a steady flow of albums, three of which broke into the Top 100 of the Billboard Album Chart. His liking for jazz was evident from an early age, but the times were such that in order to survive his career had to take a more pop-oriented course. By the 90s, however, he was able to angle his repertoire to accommodate his own musical preferences and to please a new audience while still keeping faith with the faithful. Rankin’s warm singing style and his soft, nylon-stringed guitar sound might suggest an artist more attuned to the supper-club circuit than the jazz arena, but his work contains many touches that appeal to the jazz audience.

Rankin appeared on The Tonight Show more than twenty times. Host Johnny Carson was so impressed by him that he wrote the liner notes to Rankin’s 1967 debut album Mind Dusters, which featured the single “Peaceful.” Kenny’s friend Helen Reddy would reach #2 Adult Contemporary and #12 Pop in 1973 with a cover of it, released as her follow-up single to “I Am Woman”. Georgie Fame also had a hit with this song in 1969, his only songwriting credit to hit the British charts reaching number sixteen and spending 9 weeks on the chart.

Rankin’s accompanists from time to time included Alan Broadbent, Mike Wofford and Bill Watrous, and on such occasions the mood slips easily into a jazz groove. His compositions have been performed by artists such as Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, while Stan Getz said of him that he was “a horn with a heartbeat”. Rankin was deeply interested in Brazilian music and his Here In My Heart, on which he used jazz guests including Michael Brecker and Ernie Watts, was recorded mostly in Rio De Janeiro. More contemporary songs were given an airing following his move to Verve Records, including the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and Leon Russell‘s “A Song For You.”

“When Sunny Gets Blue”

“Dreamsville”

Rankin’s own unique gift for reworking classic songs such as The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” which he recorded for his Silver Morning album, so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to perform his interpretation of the song when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“Groovin”

“On and On”

He can be heard singing the song “Miles From Here” in the first episode of the television series Fame titled “Metamorphosis”.

Rankin was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just three weeks before he passed. He died in Los Angeles, California – where he had resided for many years – from the disease on June 7, 2009. He was 69 years old.

“Blame It On My Youth”

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, imdb.com

Farewell Etta James

Etta James, whose powerful, versatile and emotionally direct voice could enliven the raunchiest blues as well as the subtlest love songs, most indelibly in her signature hit, “At Last,” died Friday morning in Riverside, Calif. She was 73.

Her manager, Lupe De Leon, said that the cause was complications of leukemia. Ms. James, who died at Riverside Community Hospital, had been undergoing treatment for some time for a number of conditions, including leukemia and dementia. She also lived in Riverside.

Ms. James was not easy to pigeonhole. She is most often referred to as a rhythm and blues singer, and that is how she made her name in the 1950s with records like “Good Rockin’ Daddy.” She is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

She was also comfortable, and convincing, singing pop standards, as she did in 1961 with “At Last,” which was written in 1941 and originally recorded by Glenn Miller’s orchestra. And among her four Grammy Awards (including a lifetime-achievement honor in 2003) was one for best jazz vocal performance, which she won in 1995 for the album “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.”

Regardless of how she was categorized, she was admired. Expressing a common sentiment, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 1990 that she had “one of the great voices in American popular music, with a huge range, a multiplicity of tones and vast reserves of volume.”

“At Last”

For all her accomplishments, Ms. James had an up-and-down career, partly because of changing audience tastes but largely because of drug problems. She developed a heroin habit in the 1960s; after she overcame it in the 1970s, she began using cocaine. She candidly described her struggles with addiction and her many trips to rehab in her autobiography, “Rage to Survive,” written with David Ritz (1995).

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 1938. Her mother, Dorothy Hawkins, was 14 at the time; her father was long gone, and Ms. James never knew for sure who he was, although she recalled her mother telling her that he was the celebrated pool player Rudolf Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats. She was reared by foster parents and moved to San Francisco with her mother when she was 12.

She began singing at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles at 5 and turned to secular music as a teenager, forming a vocal group with two friends. She was 15 when she made her first record, “Roll With Me Henry,” which set her own lyrics to the tune of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ recent hit “Work With Me Annie.” When some disc jockeys complained that the title was too suggestive, the name was changed to “The Wallflower,” although the record itself was not.

“The Wallflower” rose to No. 2 on the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1954. As was often the case in those days with records by black performers, a toned-down version was soon recorded by a white singer and found a wider audience: Georgia Gibbs’s version, with the title and lyric changed to “Dance With Me, Henry,” was a No. 1 pop hit in 1955. (Its success was not entirely bad news for Ms. James. She shared the songwriting royalties with Mr. Ballard and the bandleader and talent scout Johnny Otis, who had arranged for her recording session. (Mr. Otis died on Tuesday.)

“I’d Rather Go Blind”

In 1960 Ms. James was signed by Chess Records, the Chicago label that was home to Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and other leading lights of black music. She quickly had a string of hits, including “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Trust in Me” and “At Last,” which established her as Chess’s first major female star.

She remained with Chess well into the 1970s, reappearing on the charts after a long absence in 1967 with the funky and high-spirited “Tell Mama.” In the late ’70s and early ’80s she was an opening act for the Rolling Stones.

After decades of touring, recording for various labels and drifting in and out of the public eye, Ms. James found herself in the news in 2009 after Beyoncé Knowles recorded a version of “At Last” closely modeled on hers. (Ms. Knowles played Ms. James in the 2008 movie “Cadillac Records,” a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of Chess.) Ms. Knowles also performed “At Last” at an inaugural ball for President Obama in Washington.

When the movie was released, Ms. James had kind words for Ms. Knowles’s portrayal. But in February 2009, referring specifically to the Washington performance, she told an audience, “I can’t stand Beyoncé,” and threatened to “whip” the younger singer for singing “At Last.” She later said she had been joking, but she did add that she wished she had been invited to sing the song herself for the new president.

Ms. James’s survivors include her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills; two sons, Donto and Sametto James; and four grandchildren.

Though her life had its share of troubles to the end — her husband and sons were locked in a long-running battle over control of her estate, which was resolved in her husband’s favor only weeks before her death — Ms. James said she wanted her music to transcend unhappiness rather than reflect it.

“Something’s Got A Hold On Me”

“A lot of people think the blues is depressing,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992, “but that’s not the blues I’m singing. When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life. People that can’t stand to listen to the blues, they’ve got to be phonies.”

Sources: PETER KEEPNEWS, New York Times, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Jane Froman

Jane Froman (November 10, 1907 – April 22, 1980) was an American singer and actress. During her thirty-year career, Froman performed on stage, radio and television despite chronic injuries that she sustained from a 1943 plane crash. The 1952 film, With a Song in My Heart, is based on her life.

“I’ll Walk Alone”

Froman was born in University CityMissouri, the daughter of Elmer Ellsworth Froman and Anna T. Barcafer. Her childhood andadolescence was spent in the small Missouri town of Clinton. She attended Columbia College (Missouri) in the city of Columbia, which she considered her hometown. Her father left her mother when Jane was about 5 years old. She developed a stutter around this time, which plagued her all of her life, except when she sang.[1]

Although she had classical voice training, early in her career she was drawn to the songs of the era’s songwriters, George and Ira GershwinCole Porter, and Irving Berlin, who were inspiring a resurgence in popular music. She met vaudeville performer Don Ross when they auditioned for the same job at WLW radio station in Cincinnati. There, she joined Henry Thies’ orchestra and was featured vocal on a number of Thies’ Victor recordings. Convinced she was star material, Ross became her unofficial manager and persuaded her to move to Chicago where he worked for NBC radio. In 1933 Froman moved to New York City where she appeared onChesterfield‘s “Music that Satisfies” radio program with Bing Crosby. She married Don Ross in September 1933. She joined theZiegfeld Follies the same year where she befriended Fannie Brice. In 1934, at age 27, she became the top-polled “girl singer.” The famous composer and producer, Billy Rose, when asked to name the top ten female singers, is reported to have replied, “Jane Froman and nine others.”

She was severely injured by an aircraft crash on February 22, 1943, when a USO plane, a Boeing 314 named Yankee Clipper (tail number NC18603) was carrying Froman and 38 others. When Yankee Clipper was banking into a turn for approach, a wingtip caught a wave, whereupon she crashed into the Tagus River in LisbonPortugal. One of fifteen survivors, Froman sustained severe injuries: a cut below the left knee nearly severing her leg, multiple fractures of her right arm, and a compound fracture of her right leg that doctors threatened to amputate. Froman had given her seat to another passenger, Tamara Drasin, who was killed in the crash, an action which her biographer Ilene Stone said “bothered her her whole life.”[1]

“I Only Have Eyes For You”

The co-pilot, John Curtis Burn, who broke his back in the crash, fashioned a makeshift raft from portions of the wrecked plane to help keep himself and Froman afloat. After being rescued, they were sent to the same convalescent home, where they battled their long recoveries together. After she divorced Don Ross in February 1948, Jane Froman and John Burn were married, only to be divorced eight years later (March 12, 1948 – 1956).

“Get Happy”

Froman underwent 39 operations over the years. She fought amputation and wore a leg brace the remainder of her life. However, she returned to Europe and entertained American troops in 1945. Despite having to walk with crutches, she gave 95 shows throughout Europe. During the 40s Froman became addicted to painkillers. Although she successfully underwent detoxification, she later had problems with alcohol addiction.

Froman’s life story was the subject of the movie With a Song in My Heart (1952), starring Susan Hayward as Froman. Froman was deeply involved in the film’s production: she supplied Hayward’s singing voice and served as the film’s technical advisor. The Capitol album of songs from the movie was the number one best-selling album of 1952 and remained in the catalogue for many years. DRG recently re-issued the album on a compact disc along with the 1952 revival cast album of Pal Joey, in which Froman sang the role made famous by Vivienne Segal, Vera Simpson.

A Choice CD called Jane Froman on Capitol is a collection of her Capitol Records singles and tracks from albums. From 1952-1955 Jane starred on CBS-TV. Her first program,USA Canteen, had servicemen in the audience. The program was renamed The Jane Froman Show and the format was changed to a twice weekly 15 minute program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After the show was canceled in 1956, Froman appeared on various programs for the next few years. She also appeared on stage in Las Vegas. Froman retired to her home town of Columbia in 1961 where she married an old college friend, Rowland Hawes Smith (June 22, 1962 – April 22, 1980). She continued the volunteer work for which she was known throughout her career. In 1980, she died of cardiac arrest caused by chronic heart and lung disease in Columbia. She is buried at the Columbia Cemetery.

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Sophie Tucker

Sophie Tucker (13 January 1886 – 9 February 1966) was a Russian/Ukrainian-born American singer and actress. Known for her stentorian delivery of comical and risqué songs, she was one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first half of the 20th century. She was widely known by the nickname “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

“Some Of These Days”

Tucker was born Sonya Kalish (Russian Соня Калиш) to a Jewish family in Tulchyn, Ukraine. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was an infant, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. The family changed its name to Abuza, and her parents opened arestaurant.

She started singing for tips in her family’s restaurant. In 1903, at the age of 17, she was briefly married to Louis Tuck, from which she decided to change her name to Tucker. She bore a son with Tuck, named Bert. (She would marry twice more in her life, but neither marriage lasted more than five years.)

Tucker played piano and sang burlesque and vaudeville tunes, at first in blackface. She later said that this was at the insistence of theatre managers, who said she was “too fat and ugly” to be accepted by an audience in any other context. She even sang songs that acknowledged her weight, such as “Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love”.

She made a name for herself in a style that was known at the time as a “Coon Shouter“, performing African American influenced songs. Not content with performing in the simpleminstrel traditions, Tucker hired some of the best African American singers of the time to give her lessons, and hired African American composers to write songs for her act.

Tucker made her first appearance in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1909, but did not last long there because Florenz Ziegfeld‘s other female stars soon refused to share the spotlight with the popular Tucker.

“The Man I Love”

William Morris, the founder of the William Morris Agency booked Tucker fresh off her Follies debut at his new American Music Hall. At a 1909 appearance, the luggage containing Tucker’s makeup kit was stolen shortly before the show, and she hastily went on stage without her customary blackface. Tucker was a bigger hit without her makeup than with it, and, at the advice of Morris, she never wore blackface again. She did, however, continue to draw much of her material from African American writers as well as African Americanculture, singing in a ragtime– and blues-influenced style, becoming known for a time as “The Mary Garden of Ragtime”, a reference to a famous operatic soprano of the era.

“The Lady Is A Tramp”

Tucker made several popular recordings. They included “Some of These Days“, which came out in 1911 on Edison Records. The tune, written by Shelton Brooks, was a hit, and became Tucker’s theme song. Later, it was the title of her 1945 autobiography.

In 1921, Tucker hired pianist and songwriter Ted Shapiro as her accompanist and musical director, a position he would keep throughout her career. Besides writing a number of songs for Tucker, Shapiro became part of her stage act, playing piano on stage while she sang, and exchanging banter and wisecracks with her in between numbers. Tucker remained a popular singer through the 1920s, and hired stars such as Mamie Smith and Ethel Waters to give her lessons.

In 1925, Jack Yellen wrote one of her most famous songs, “My Yiddishe Momme“. The song was performed in large American cities where there were sizable Jewish audiences. Tucker explained, “Even though I loved the song and it was a sensational hit every time I sang it, I was always careful to use it only when I knew the majority of the house would understand Yiddish. However, you didn’t have to be a Jew to be moved by ‘My Yiddish Momme.’ ‘Mother’ in any language means the same thing.” She also made the first of her many movie appearances in the 1929 sound picture Honky Tonk. During the 1930s, Tucker brought elements ofnostalgia for the early years of 20th century into her show. She was billed as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” as her heartysexual appetite was a frequent subject of her songs, unusual for female performers of the era.

“He Hadn’t Up Till Yesterday”

“My Yiddishe Mama”

Such was Tucker’s notoriety and cultural influence that, as late as 1963, three years before her death, Paul McCartney jokingly introduced the song “Til There Was You” (from The Music Man) at The Beatles‘ Royal Command Performance at The Prince of Wales Theatre in London on 4 November by saying the song “had also been recorded by our favourite American group, Sophie Tucker”.[2] in reference to Tucker’s notorious girth (Tucker never recorded the song). McCartney also used the same quip, this time for an American audience, to introduce The Beatles’ performance of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as the finale of their set for The Ed Sullivan Show at The Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida on 16 February 1964. As there was a lot less audience reaction to the line in Miami Beach, John Lennon provided the laughs.