Thursday, January 13, 2011

Memorial Musicale

Margret Whiting, who died this week at the age of 86, began her career in the 1940s and was still going - perhaps not as strong as ever but still going - in 2006 when she gave her last performance. From pop to country, Broadway to cabaret she had a style that was instantly recognizable: clear, steady but not brassy with a touch of naivety and as she grew older an ever growing sense of communication. In many ways her life was out of a fairy tale but a fairy tale in which the lovely Princess reached her happily ever after by hard work and talent. I won't go into the details of her private life, the obituaries in the main stream and gay press cover that sufficiently, but thought I would post a few videos of her doing what she did so brilliantly.

Her first big hit was this Rogers and Hammerstein number from State Fair. In the recently released Finishing the Hat, Stephen Sondheim writes critically, and with wit and affection I might add, about his own work and that of other lyricists and composers. Of his mentor and strongest influence Oscar Hammerstein II he writes:
Hammerstein is usually thought of as the Norman Rockwell of lyricists: earthy, optimistic, sometimes ponderously bucolic, a proponent of small town American values, a purveyor of generosity and kindness toward the world and his fellow humans and of empathy for their small sufferings and dreams. And like Rockwell he has been both underestimated (for his craft) and overestimated (for his philosophy).
Stephen Sondheim - Finishing the Hat
Collected lyrics (1954-1981),
with attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
Virgin Books - 2010

Here she is singing, what was to become her signature tune, It Might As Well Be Spring. This may be bucolic Hammerstein but Ms Whiting gives it a slight wry twists that removes the ponderous!

Though she hadn't appeared on stage since 2006 Margaret Whiting's voice was heard on the soundtrack of the 2009 movie Julie & Julie doing another standard that was earmarked as hers. Time After Time was written in 1947 by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne and though oft recorded I find this has to be "the" version.

Ms Whiting was a life-long friend of composer Johnny Mercer - after her father died he became a surrogate and mentor. In the past few years she had done much to keep the Mercer songbook alive and a vital part of the music scene. Here she is with Mercer doing a song that sounds perfect for the sort of weather my North American friends have been experiencing.

Fortunately Margaret Whiting has left behind a legacy of recordings charting her career and her place in the musical world of an era. Its a treasure chest worth opening.

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

Farewell, Margaret Whiting! (And that Hammerstein/Rockwell analogy is right on, LOL!)

Debra She Who Seeks said...

P.S. I relabeled my gingerbread house posts as "Gingerbread Houses" (6 in total) as you suggested! Thanks!