Wednesday, August 09, 2017


There’s something about the death of a singer; for a moment, the song seems gone forever.

Then you remember that you rarely saw them perform in person, but lived with them via records and TV appearances, which endure. While it’s no consolation to them, for those who hear the sad news, it’s, “well…I can still see them and hear them. The way I knew them, they are still around.”

Barbara Cook was mostly known to fans of Broadway. The 89 year-old actress won a Tony Award for “The Music Man,” but didn’t play in the movie version. Vinyl-flippers also have seen her name on the Original Cast albums for “Plain and Fancy,” “Candide” and “She Loves Me.” She also toured in various productions of musical standards such as “The King and I,” “Funny Girl” and “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” 

 Cook was a bit of a hard luck story when it come to movies. It seemed that if she was lucky enough to score a hit that was picked up for a film version, a more traditional star such as Shirley Jones or Debbie Reynolds would get the prize assignment. When her luck ran out in the 70’s, and it seemed she’d never get that chance to be the Cinema Sweetheart in a big budget film, she became lost in alcohol and in weight problems. She managed to emerge from her struggle, and along with a few other veterans (such as Elaine Stritch), she created a new form of entertainment via the solo show. 

In the 80’s and 90's she was known for her cabaret work, and a “one woman show” that was a hit both in America and England. She was one of the veterans who could show a new generation why the “standards” are the gold standard. People who missed the great era of Broadway, got a glimpse of it through Barbara Cook. One of her highlight moments was performing one of the last truly great Broadway ballads, Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind,” which was the hit in "Follies." You don’t have to be a fan (spelled with an “n” at the end, not a “g”) to be touched by this one. Not only is this a beautiful, aching love song, it’s almost a textbook example on writing, from the spare symbolism to the perfectly timed and placed chord changes.

      Cook was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2011, and only retired last year. Most would agree that, like Patti Page, her most endearing quality was also a bit of a liability. She had a true “ringing” soprano, a bell-like tone and vibrato that was almost too pretty to be true. There may be others who give “Losing My Mind” a more tragic edge simply because they don’t have such a perfect voice. Here's an example of the perfect brilliance of Barbara Cook. 

Barbara Cook
  Losing My Mind  (Live Performance)   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

No comments: