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The Style Council Party Chambers from b/w Speak Like a Child (Polydor) Add to Collection
When I was in college I went through something of a Cole Porter phase. I had a few albums of his songs, and so I could compare different singers’ interpretations of the same songs.
One that stood out in particular was Blossom Dearie’s version of “Always True to You in My Fashion”. Dearie’s clear, high, kittenish voice gave a touch of innocence to Porter’s ribald lyrics — a perfect counterpoint, really, just right for the song. And so I filed her name away in my mind as something to remember.
A few years later a friend gave me the Blossom Dearie Jazz Masters album from Verve. I hadn’t really listened to her since college, and only knew the one song, but the album quickly became a favorite. Her haunting version of “Once Upon a Summertime”, sweet but tinged with regret, is my favorite version of that song. There are also sweet love songs (“Let Me Love You”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”), funny songs (“Give Him the Ooh-La-La”, “I Won’t Dance”), and cool jazz (“Dearie’s Blues”). Though her voice is very distinctive, she brings something different to every song.
Later I found out that I (like most Americans my age) had known Dearie’s voice as a child, as part of the Schoolhouse Rock! series, where she sang “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives”.
Dearie had a long career, and I know I have only begun to scratch the surface in discovering her work. I regret missing her cabaret residency just a few years ago in New York. Why didn’t I go? Perhaps I thought there would always be another opportunity to hear this timeless voice.
Blossom Dearie died this past Saturday at the age of 82, of natural causes, in her Greenwich Village apartment.
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