On the death of a chanteuse


It’s odd thatBlossom Dearie wasn’t a household name.

Or, maybe not. Jazz critic Whitney Bailliett famously wrote that Dearie’s voice “would scarcely reach the second storey of a doll’s house.”The voice, which could be as sarcastic as it was whimsical, and the cabaret/jazz hybrid musical style she favored, weren’t to everyone’s liking, I guess.

Of course, not everyone likes quiet Sunday mornings with the sun streaming in the windows, or late Saturday nights with just you and your sweetie, stealing a kiss on the subway platform, or an endless champagne brunch in some tucked-away little spot. Those are Blossom Dearie moments, those are the places where that voice can take you.

It was years and years, and years, ago that a friend lent me a CD of the classic “Blossom Dearie” on Verve. I remember trying to figure it all out. Damn, she played the piano too? Was she American? Still alive? It sounded like it could have been recorded decades ago, or just yesterday. Turns out that album was recorded the year I was born, but I never got tired of listening. Probably never will.
One thing I’ve always loved is how Dearie gets comfortable and just stretches out with an arrangement. Like she’s got all the time in the world, for this music, for you.

Interestingly enough, generations of Dearie’s biggest fans never even knew her name. They just know that voice, which is entirely fitting, fromSchoolhouse Rock:

11 thoughts on “On the death of a chanteuse

  1. they didn’t play that schoolhouse rock one enough. or i never got my ass up early enough.
    never heard of her til now. i need to get some blossom CDs now.

  2. pansypoo, that was one of my favorites from Schoolhouse Rock (I loved that kind of melancholy feel about it). If I remember the voice correctly, she also did the one from Grammar Rock about adjectives.
    I’m so glad you posted this, virgotex. I had no idea who she was when I heard about her on NPR this morning, but I thought I recognized the voice. The Schoolhouse Rock reminded me, so now I can mourn her loss the way she deserves.

  3. I’d never heard her name, but I remember School House Rock. What an interesting voice. Thanks for posting these.

  4. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a YouTube clip of it, but my favorite Blossom Dearie tune is “Always True to You Darlin’ in My Fashion”.

  5. I’ve been in my own little world these past few days and hadn’t heard the news about Blossom Dearie. Thanks, VirgoTex, for your memories of her.
    I came to the lovely Ms. Dearie through her sidemen. I’ve always been a Oscar Peterson Trio fan; the albums she recorded with Verve were with the incomparable Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and Ed Thigpen. There’s a particular “touch” that Brown has and it comes through in his smoking intro and comping on the first 32 bars of “Just One of Those Things” from “Give Him the Ooh La-La.” That tune got me /hooked/ on her.
    So now I’ll put on “Give Him the Ooh La-La” and raise a beer.
    And, FeralLiberal? “Always True to You” just came on.
    As an aside, I’ve always thought Lisa Ekhdal’s voice has a similar timbre. There’s an “innocent-but-up-to-something” girlishness there. I love both of them.

  6. Wittman, you know Ray Brown discovered Diana Krall, right? And that’s just one little detail of his bio. What a musician.
    Nellie McKay owes a debt to Dearie as well. She is apparently an outspoken fan.

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