Episode 69. Voiceless Wonders: An Introduction

Episode 69. Voiceless Wonders: An Introduction



Mabel Mercer

Some of the greatest singers in history are not necessarily the most vocally-gifted. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of episodes devoted to such artists. I consider singers across many genres: recitalists (Pierre Bernac, Madeleine Grey, Povla Frijsh, Jane Bathori), cabaret (Mabel Mercer, Noël Coward, Julie Wilson, Barbara, Lotte Lenya), musicals (Fred and Adele Astaire, Chita Rivera), pop music (Bob Dylan, Lou Reed), jazz (Billie Holiday, Alberta Hunter), actors (Audrey Hepburn, Melina Mercouri, Judi Dench, Hildegard Knef, Divine), and even comedians (Dody Goodman, Bourvil), with special focus on a few of the voiceless tenors who hold a special place in my heart (Hugues Cuenod, Karl Erb, Helmut Krebs, Julius Patzak). At the end, I feature two aging icons (Marlene Dietrich and Joséphine Baker) in unforgettable live performances of two protest songs that are painfully relevant at this moment in time. Composers include Alec Wilder, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Franz Schubert, Stephen Sondheim, Francis Poulenc, Abel Meeropol, Claude Debussy, Kander and Ebb, Pete Seeger, Carl Orff, Manos Hadzidakis, Fats Waller, Maurice Ravel, and Rudolf Sieczyński. Please join me for this very special episode. But prepare yourselves for an emotional wallop.


Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell: Georgia on My Mind. Mildred Bailey; The Delta Rhythm Boys [1941]

Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer: Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Audrey Hepburn; Henry Mancini and His Orchestra [1961]

Madeleine Grey and Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel: Aoua! (Chansons madécasses, M.78, No. 2). Madeleine Grey; Instrumental ensemble led by Maurice Ravel [1932]

Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, Gerhard Bronner (German words), arr. Hans Hammerschmid: Applaus. Hildegard Knef [1975]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin: Someone to Watch over Me (Oh, Kay!). Frances Gershwin; Alfred Simon (from For George and Ira [1973])

George (L) and Ira (R) Gershwin

Rudolf Sieczyński: Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume. Julius Patzak; Hans Totzauer, Grinzinger Schrammeln Orchestra [1958]

Ken Weaver: I Couldn’t Get High. The Fugs (from The Fugs First Album [1965])

Francis Poulenc (L) and Pierre Bernac (R) photographed by Richard Avedon (1950)

Francis Poulenc, Guillaume Apollinaire: Voyage (Calligrammes, FP 140, No. 7). Pierre Bernac; Francis Poulenc [1950]

Stephen Sondheim: Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music). Judi Dench [1996]

Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side (from Transformer [1972])

Manos Hadzithakis: The Children of Piraeus [Τα Παιδιά του Πειραιά] (Never on Sunday). Melina Mercouri [1960]

Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht: Denn wie man sich bettet (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny). Lotte Lenya; Roger Bean and His Orchestra [1955]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin: Hang on to Me (Lady, Be Good!). Fred Astaire, Adele Astaire; George Gershwin [1926]

Stephen Sondheim: I’m Still Here (Follies). Julie Wilson; William Roy [1987]

Francis Poulenc, Louis Aragon: C (Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon, FP122, No. 1). Hugues Cuenod; Geoffrey Parsons [1978]

Franz Schubert, Wilhelm Müller (unknown English translator). The Hurdy-Gurdy Man [Der Leiermann] (Winterreise, D.911, No. 24). Harry Plunket Greene [1934]

Noël Coward: I’ll See You Again (Bitter Sweet). Noël Coward; Carroll Gibbons [1938]

John Kander, Fred Ebb: Love and Love Alone (The Visit). Chita Rivera [2015]

Kander and Ebb

Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues (from Bringing It All Back Home [1965])

Jacques Offenbach: Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre (Les Contes d’Hoffmann). Bourvil; André Cluytens, Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique [1948]

Bud McCreery: Tranquilizers. Dody Goodman (from Dody Goodman Sings? [1958])

Fats Waller, Andy Razaf: My Handy Man. Alberta Hunter; Gerald Cook, Doc Cheatham (from Amtrak Blues [produced by John Hammond] [1980])

Bobby Orlando: Shoot Your Shot. Divine [1982]

Divine as Dawn Davenport in Female Trouble (1974)

Carl Orff: Olim lacus colueram (Carmina Burana). Gerhard Stolze; Eugen Jochum, Chor und Orchester des Deutschen Oper, Berlin [1967]

Georges Bizet: Ouvre ton coeur (Ivan IV). Michel Sénéchal; Georges Tzipine, Orchestre et Chœur National de la RTF

Emmerich Zillner, Josef Hochmuth, Hans Werner: Es steht ein alter Nußbaum. Erich Kunz; Kemmeter-Faltl Schrammel Ensemble [1954]

Randall Thompson, Elinor Wylie: Velvet Shoes. Povla Frijsh; Celius Dougherty [1940]

Alec Wilder: Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s? [aka Sneden’s Landing]. Mabel Mercer; Stan Freeman, Cy Walter [1954]

Claude Debussy, Paul Verlaine: Colloque sentimental (Fêtes galantes II, L.114, No. 3). Jane Bathori [1929]

Barbara [née Monique Andrée Serf]: L’aigle noir [1970]

Abel Meeropol: Strange Fruit. Billie Holiday [Chelsea at Nine television broadcast, 18 March 1959]

Johann Sebastian Bach: Ich will an den Himmel denken (Wo gehest du hin?, BWV 166). Helmut Krebs; Helmuth Barbe, Bachorchester Berlin [1960]

Pete Seeger, Max Colpet (German words), arr. Burt Bacharach: Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind [Where Have All the Flowers Gone?]. Marlene Dietrich; Orchester Max Greger [live UNICEF Gala, Düsseldorf 6 October 1962]

Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changin’. Joséphine Baker [live Carnegie Hall 5 June 1973]

Franz Schubert, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Wanderers Nachtlied II, D.764. Karl Erb; Bruno Seidler-Winkler [1936]

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