We got an email today from our old New York friend, Chip Duckett, eulogizing jazz singer Anita O’Day, who died on Thursday in LA from cardiac arrest at 87.
I don’t know if you saw the news reports about Anita O’Day’s passing, since it isn’t on the WOW site yet. (When I saw it on Google, I honestly checked the WOW Report immediately to try and confirm because you tend to note the deaths of celebrities who are a little off the “In Touch” radar before anyone).
If you’re not familiar with Anita, briefly: She started her career in the ’30’s and released an album last year, as she did in every single decade in between. (Which, by the way, makes her the ONLY performer to have released music regularly over that SEVEN DECADE period). Highlights: million-selling records when that actually meant something, interracial duets decades before the ’60s, the Newport Jazz Festival, and her unbelievable rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose.” From big-band singer to Verve legend to Judy Garland-level ups and downs – except she survived and thrived. Other reasons I loved her: She went crazy on drugs and booze, cleaned up (sound familiar in our world?), admitted it in an autobio and on 60 Minutes, and kept singing. And critics place her in the same talent pool with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sinatra.
I was so fortunate to get to know her in the last years of her life, and to have produced her final New York shows. Everyone said she was too difficult to deal with, but within five minutes of meeting she and I made plans for sushi. (And we fucking loved the sushi, and each other.) In her later years, she may have lost a little tonal vibrance, but she still sang the hell out of songs like “Honeysuckle” – she found a way to sing a counterpoint to the melody that defies definition. The only other performer I can think of who did something like it is Billie.
– Chip Duckett