Ella in Savannah

November 7, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Posted in Books, Music | Leave a comment
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While it would be too much to say that I live for coincidences and I am even skeptical when I find them in a novel, but when they happen to me I am just delighted.

I am reading, after strong recommendations from several blog readers, Midnight in the Garden of Good and by John Berendt. Johnny Mercer, the once very famous composer, is the musical spirit of the book. He was one of the last composers whose work is folded for all time in the Great American Songbook and he and his family are from Savannah and there is no book more drenched in place than Midnight.

So, the other day I was in the mood to dip into my Uncle Anthony’s record collection. I looked and saw Ella Fitzgerald on an album edge and thought that yes, she would be just right. I pulled the album off the shelf and this is what I found:

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Beverly Kenney sings for Playboys

August 20, 2011 at 1:39 PM | Posted in Music | 4 Comments
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Have you had the experience of reading about someone and then, as you read further, discovered that they committed suicide? To go so quickly from hello to such a bad good-bye is shocking.

The other day I was in the mood to hear something new and so I turned to a shelf filled with LPs that my Uncle Anthony left me, many of which I have not as yet played. I found Beverly Kenney sings for Playboys and the cover is so striking I don’t know how I had never seen it. That I had never heard of her at all was  less surprising as Anthony’s taste was wide. The record itself was very worn but played fine and Kenney’s voice is good without being specially distinct like Peggy Lee or Ella or Sarah and her choice of music excellent: Do it again, Try a Little Tenderness and What is there to say? give you an idea of the album.

There are other attractions: she’s accompanied by the great pianist Ellis Larkins and the liner notes, not just a blurb, are by Steve Allen. And, at least on this one album cover, she’s a good-looking girl.

So as I took all this in I wondered what had happened to her. Wiki sang a sad song. Kenney, beloved in Japan, and this Playboy album, released in 1958 and considered her best just two years behind her, killed herself in 1960 at just 28 years of age.

Perhaps that’s why my Uncle, the most sensitive of men, never mentioned her to me.

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