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Sunday, 6 May 2018

Anita O'Day.......Song Stylist




When looking to label this post I realised ...You can't label Anita- she is unique, a one off !!!
I first heard her thanks to my Dad I was semi listening to tracks on Gene Krupa's 'Drumming Man' LPs trying to find something I liked ; that I could connect to. I'd heard Irene Daye (no relation) but she was too smooth, too formulae. Then I heard this...


There were other Anita tracks on the LPs ( especially record 2)  - my favourites being:
'' Massachusetts''  ' and ''That's What You think''. I was in love.
These were the times when singers ('canary's' ) were not foremost the attraction  in a band - they were featured , hence the long intros and short vocal passages in recordings. If you were going to make an impact you had to have 'something', and this gal certainly did!
My Mom said ''You should have seen her do Tea For Two in Jazz On A Summers Day - Thanks to YouTube we now can :


.Born Anita Belle Colton, she had left home when she was 12. She began competing in dance marathons when she was 14. When she started singing at them she took the name O'Day (pig Latin for the "dough" she hoped to make). She started singing in nightclubs when she was 19 and joined the drummer Gene Krupa's big band in 1941.She always maintained that the accidental excision of her uvula during a childhood tonsillectomy left her incapable of vibrato, and unable to maintain long phrases. That botched operation, she claimed, forced her to develop a more percussive style based on short notes and rhythmic drive. However, when she was in good voice she could stretch long notes with strong crescendos and a telescoping vibrato, e.g. her live version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.
Anita didn't consider herself a singer- she preferred to call herself a 'Song Stylist''.
She also considered herself to be a musician and not the' canary' that stood in front of the mike and warbled .In those days female vocalists wore evening gowns- Anita wore a band jacket and skirt.
Her autobiography 'High Times,HardTimes' is a brutally honest account of her story as is the documentary 'Life As A Jazz Singer'


In spite of two failed marriages, drug addiction (she weaned herself off heroin in 1968), alcoholism, broken bones, nervous breakdowns, two abortions and serious illnesses -she never stopped singing- her album 'Indestructible' was released in 2006


Anita passed away on November 23rd 2006  aged 87 years old She had been battling a bout of pneumonia in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Disease.
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