Episode 267. A Cavalcade of Pop Contraltos

Episode 267. A Cavalcade of Pop Contraltos



My intention this week to produce a joyous new episode further celebrating contraltos, was undermined by multiple deaths this past week in the musical world, including French pop icon Françoise Hardy, Swiss tenor Eric Tappy, American art song icon Paul Sperry, and R&B diva Angela Bofill, capped by the tragic demise of young Belgian coloratura soprano Jodie Devos of breast cancer at the age of only 35. The episode, thus, begins with brief musical excerpts from all of these recently departed artists. In the main episode, I spread the contralto net even wider than last time, focusing on low-voiced doyennes of popular song. We hear jazz singers (Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae); stars of stage, screen, and radio (Marlene Dietrich, Polly Bergen, Connee Boswell, Alice Faye, Lisa Kirk, Kate Smith); purveyors of the Blues (Bessie Smith, Bertice Reading); French cabaret singers (Damia, Barbara); fado, rebetika, and tango artists (Amália Rodrigues, Milva, Maria Bethânia, Sotiria Bellou); and late-20th century pop icons (Cher, Tina Turner, Karen Carpenter, Annie Lennox); with a few delightful surprises along the way. I should also note, in honor of Pride Month, that more than a few of these artists flaunted societal norms regarding their affectional preferences, living either furtively or openly at a time when such expressions could have serious consequences. I love putting this kind of episode together and I hope that you enjoy the kaleidoscopic sounds that emerge from the throats of these deep-voiced pop divas.


Guy Bontempelli: Ma jeunesse fout le camp. Françoise Hardy [live Tilt (French television show) 27.III.68]

Claudio Monteverdi, Gian Francesco Busenello: Pur ti miro (L’Incoronazione di Poppea). Eric Tappy, Tatiana Troyanos, Raymond Leppard, San Francisco Opera Orchestra [live 19.IX.75]

Earl Klugh, Bunny Hull: You Should Know By Now. Angela Bofill, arranged and produced by Narada Michael Walden [1981]

Richard Hundley, James Purdy: Come Ready and See Me. Paul Sperry, Irma Vallecillo [1984]

Freddie Mercury: You Take My Breath Away. Jodie Devos, Hélène Cambier, Ensemble Soie [live Octaves de la Musique VI.21]

Ted Grouya, George Martine, Henri Lapointe, Louis Poterat: J’ai perdu ma jeunesse. Damia [née Marie-Louise Damien], Wal-Berg [né Voldemar Rosenberg] et son orchestre [1935]

Astor Piazzolla, Michele Trejo: Los pajaros perdidos. Milva [née Maria Ilva Biolcati], Astor Piazzolla, Pablo Ziegler, F. Suarez Paz, Hector Console [live Paris, Bouffes du Nord 29.IX.84]

Alain Oulman, Alexandre O’Neill: Gaivota. Amália Rodrigues, Domingos Carmarinha, Castreo Mota, Martinho d’Assuncao [1965]

Luiz Carlos Vinhas, Chico Feltosa: Yê-Melê. Maria Bethânia, Conjunto Luiz Carlos Vinhas [1969]

Sotiria Bellou, Vassilis Tsitsanis: Σε φιλίεσ δεν πιστεύω [I don’t believe in friendships]. Sotiria Bellou, The Bouzoukis of Stelios Zafiriou [1966]

Jimmy Cox: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. Bessie Smith, Ed Allen, Clarence Williams, Cyrus St. Clair [1929]

J.C. Johnson: Bessie Smith Blues. Bertice Reading, Peter Knight and His Orchestra [1956]

Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard: I Fall to Pieces. Patsy Cline, Harold Bradley, Hank Garland, Randy Hughes, Floyd Cramer, Ben Keith, Dough Kirkham, Bob Moore, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, The Jordanaires [1961]

Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton: Body and Soul (Three’s a Crowd). Libby Holman [1930]

Harry Carroll [after Frédéric Chopin], Joseph McCarthy: I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. Alice Faye [deleted from Rose of Washington Square, 1939]

Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields: Lost in a Fog. Connee Boswell, Jimmie Grier and His Orchestra [1934]

Irving Berlin: Isn’t This a Lovely Day? (Top Hat). Jeri Southern, Orchestra arranged and conducted by Lennie Hayton [1958]

Georges Auric, William Engvick: The Song from Moulin Rouge [Where Is Your Heart?]. Felicia Sanders [née Felice Schwartz], Irving Joseph [1955]

Bronisław Kaper, Helen Deutsch: Hi Lili, Hi-Lo (Lili). Lisa Kirk, musical direction by Donald Pippin [1959]

Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolph Green: The Party’s Over (Bells Are Ringing). Polly Bergen, Luther Henderson and His Orchestra [1957]

Harry Ruby, Burt Kalmar: Three Little Words. Carmen McRae, Jimmy Rowles, Joe Pass, Chuck Domanico, Chuck Flores [live Los Angeles 06.XI.71]

Tommy Wolf, Fran Landesman: Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Betty Carter, Harold Marbern, Bob Cranshaw, Roy McCurdy [1964]

Kurt Weill, Maxwell Anderson: September Song (Knickerbocker Holiday). Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Jones, Paul Quinichette, Herbie Mann, Clifford Brown, Joe Benjamin, Roy Haynes [1955]

Barbara [née Monique Andrée Serf]: Septembre (Quel joli temps). Barbara, Pierre Nicolas, Joss Baselli [from Barbara No 2] [1965]

Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett: Superstar. The Carpenters [Karen Carpenter, Richard Carpenter]. [1971]

John Lennon: Help! Cher, Tina Turner, Kate Smith [The Cher Show, 27.IV.75]

Melanie Safka: Any Guy. Melanie, produced by Peter Schekeryk [1969]

Mary Watkins: Yesterday’s Children. Gwen Avery, produced by June Millington [1978]

Prince Rogers Nelson: Nothing Compares 2 U. Annie Lennox, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman [live Grammys 05.II.24]

Pete Seeger, Max Colpet [German text], arranged Burt Bacharach: Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind? Marlene Dietrich, Orchester Max Greger [live Kongresshalle Düsseldorf 06.X.62]

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