Friday, December 08, 2006

R.I.P.: Anita O'Day & Betty Comden

This website might give you a very skewed picture of the kind of music I listen to. Believe it or not, I don’t spend the majority of my listening time with old Get Hip 7” singles, Feelies offshoots, and bubblegum music. In fact, I am much more likely to drop a jazz vocalist or string quartet on my turntable these days than a limited-edition, colored vinyl, Sub Pop fan club release by the Lonely Moans or Lubricated Goat.

Anyway, that is a long way of getting around to the fact that I want to pay tribute to two fantastically talented women who recently passed away: Anita O’Day and Betty Comden.

Back during her wild days in the 50s and 60s few would have predicted Anita O’Day would live to the ripe old age of 87. O’Day came to the public’s attention via some fantastic sides she cut with Gene Krupa and Roy Eldridge. She later cut some big hits with Stan Kenton's band, and then went on to a successful solo career that was hampered somewhat by long-term drug problems. O’Day had a very unique voice. She helped define the “Cool School” vibrato-less singing style, which ironically in her case was the result of a childhood tonsillectomy gone wrong that accidentally removed her uvula.

Betty Comden, half of the famous Comden and Green songwriting team that was responsible for Singin’ In The Rain, On The Town and many other classics, also passed on recently at the age of 89.

Back in 1996 I attended a special screening of Bells Are Ringing with Comden and Green as honored guests. In their own very modest way these two geniuses electrified the room with their mere presence. It’s a hard thing to describe, but some people really do light up a room when they walk into it, and Betty Comden certainly was one of those people. (Her songwriting partner Adolf Green died in 2002).

In tribute to these two talented women of song I offer two Comden and Green classics from Bells Are Ringing sung by Anita O’Day. These tracks are taken from an album O’Day cut with Latin Jazz master Cal Tjader, and are easily available so I’m only leaving them up for a few days.

The Party's Over [available for purchase]
Just In Time [available for purchase]

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