Clockwise: Anita O'Day; Big Maybelle; Eartha Kitt; and Blossom Dearie.
As it is Valentine's Day weekend, I thought I had to go with the love theme for the 'torch' post this week. Well, coming up with torch songs about love seems like shooting fish in a barrel, so I just decide to pick some of my favorite singers and go for it. I start with one of my favorites, the brilliant Anita O'Day, who manages to display both strength and vulnerability in her voice, often in the same line. She toys with rhythm with her syncopation, and her voice is another instrument. I just love to hear her sing, a master at work. "What Is This Thing Called Love" was written by Cole Porter in 1929, and been covered by some of the greatest voices of the last century, but Anita's cover remains a favorite of mine.
There is nothing about Big Maybelle I don't like. She can be soft and sweet in songs like "Candy", and she can be rough and tumble on others like "Ninety-Six Tears". But no matter what she was singing, she always sounded like Big Maybelle, totally original. For her this evening, I chose "Just Want your Love", written by Maybelle herself in the early 1950s. There is a bold strain of Blues at the base of this song, with an undercurrent of hurt. Hope you enjoy "Just Want Your Love".
Not only was Blossom Dearie an amazing talent in the sea of gifted artists in mid-century Manhattan, she maintained that place for several decades. There is an innocence in her voice, so soft, yet enduring. She is another total original, always making music that is true to herself, not trying to copy anyone else. I picked her singing "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be)", a sweet song written by Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez, and James Sherman in 1941.
Finally, there is the incredibly unique Eartha Kitt. I don't know what more can be said about the woman, who had success on records, on the stage, and in the movies. She even had success on the small screen, playing Catwoman on the Batman series. From the 1950s until her death in 2008, she was a star who glowed brightly in the sky. In 1962, she recorded "Love For Sale", written by Cole Porter in 1930, for her album 'Bad But Beautiful'. She gives it her own special twist, starting sweet before she moved on to the saucy side of the song.
Hope your weekend is filled with love!