Happy birthday to Vera and Jennifer!

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March is almost over, but during this month two very special musical personalities both celebrated landmark birthdays: Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 years old on March 20th, and on March 3rd the great Jennifer Warnes turned 70. As much as I would have liked to see the media flooded with tributes and congratulations, both dates were passed over sort of quietly, at least here on the north part of the globe.

Dame Vera Lynn: It somehow seems just right that Vera has gotten to celebrate her centennial – she definitely is one of the historic musical legends of our time. She made her first record “Up The Wooden Hill To Bedfordshire” in 1936 (yep, that’s 81 years ago!), and just released a new collection of music – making her the only artist ever to have a new album out at age 100. She is also just about the only person still alive, who made records back in the 1930’s. With the death of the great Kay Starr in November 2016, the only other 30’s singer I can think of who is still around, is Bea Wain, and she herself will turn 100 in April.

 

Dame Vera; assorted photos taken 1937-2017

 

Vera Lynn’s musical legacy is vast and varied, but we can safely say that she belongs in the category of classic pop singers. She started making albums way back when that format was still new, and she released new ones at least once a year up until the early 80’s. She has recorded many great songs by British composers, as well as dozens of American standards. Completely devoid of funk or rock influences, she has her own regal, British way of doing her material, all of it perfectly sung in that strong, golden alto voice. Her last albums saw her dipping her ladylike toes into more contemporary stuff, and she recorded songs made famous by Abba, Barry Manilow, Randy Crawford, John Denver and Helen Reddy. In the late 70’s she also made a country album in Nashville, which is quite enjoyable (but even then she still kept her British pronunciation, and thus words like “cahn’t” and “dahnce” jarr a little against the steel guitars and Nashville sound)

To me, Vera Lynn is a singer who has always been there. She was a favourite of my grandmother, she was still a contemporary singer when my mother was growing up, and she was often seen on TV during my youth. Her artistic achievements are too many to list, but it is still worth mentioning that she was the very first British female singer to top the US Hot 100 (in 1952 with “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart“), followed in the 60’s by Petula Clark and Lulu, and in the 70’s and 80’s also by Kiki Dee and Sheena Easton (and no; Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black never had a US no. 1….)

With such an illustrious career to look back on, I am sure Dame Vera must be very happy when she now enters her 101st year. I certainly bow my head in honor of what she has achieved during the more than 80 years she has been active as a singer.

 

Jennifer Warnes: A totally different kind of singer is Jennifer Warnes. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of her debut record, and whereas Vera Lynn has made so many albums you can’t count them, Jennifer has made just 8 (yeah, eight!). Her studio albums came out 1968, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1979, 1987, 1992 and the last one in 2001.

But it’s what on those 8 albums (and assorted singles) that really counts, and Jennifer Warnes’ career is still a great one. Jennifer reached the top of the US Charts twice in the 1980’s – both times as one part of a duo, both times with songs from a movie soundtrack, and both times with songs that are not on any of her 8 studio albums. The first one was of course the theme song from “An Officer & A Gentleman” titled “Up Where We Belong“, performed with Joe Cocker in 1982. Five years later she sang the theme from “Dirty Dancing” with Bill Medley, called “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life“.

 

Assorted photos of Jennifer, taken 1980’s – 2010’s

 

Despite the fact that she has been recording for almost 50 years, a lot of people don’t know who Jennifer Warnes is, which is a great pity – as she is supremely talented and her voice has a very special timbre which makes her easy to identify when you hear her sing. I would recommend any and all albums – and even the greatest hits collections that are out there. If you don’t know Jennifer Warnes, you better get acquainted very soon!

Some of her songs have become part of our musical history: “Right Time Of The Night“, “It Goes Like It Goes“, “Could It Be Love“, “First We Take Manhattan” (written especially for her by her former boss, Leonard Cohen) and her supreme cover version of the Waterboys’ “The Whole Of The Moon“.

Obviously content with not being a megastar who is always in the media, Jennifer instead has taken her time between each album, making sure that when a new one appears – it is filled with Grade A material! That said, I much prefer the Jennifer Warnes approach to a musical career, instead of all the pop tarts who are always in the media but can’t really sing, and are more famous for being famous than for any artistic qualities.

We can still hope that Jennifer will make new albums in the future – and if and when she does, you can bet it will be 100% pure pleasure to listen to!

A belated congratulation to both of these legendary Ladies of music!

 

Coming soon – an in-depth look at Connie Francis

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To me, Connie Francis is the Queen! Of all the great vocalists who appeared on the musical scene in the 1950s, she is the brightest jewel, the unparalleled leading female singer and the only female rival to both Sinatra and Elvis.

Connie has recorded more than 2500 songs, in a variety of styles and languages – she is versatile beyond compare, and absolutely everything she has done on record is vocally perfect.

 

A young Connie in the late 1950s

A young Connie in the late 1950s

 

Connie released 46 albums of music in the USA between 1958 and 1969 (and that excludes movie soundtracks and compilations!). Her first single came out 1955, her last album of new music came out 1996. Connie was one of the first female rockers, but she could just as easily sing big band swing, show tunes, Italian and Spanish themed songs, country and MOR pop. She made theme albums of Irish and Jewish favourites, two children’s records, several albums of movie songs and whole albums dedicated to composers like Burt Bacharach and Les Reed. She covered the 1978 Eurosong Winner “A Ba Ni Bi” (in 1978) and the perennial Bob Seger favourite “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” (in 1989).

 

Connie photograped in 1985

Connie photographed in 1985

 

Her collected discography is vast and varied to the point of schizophrenia, but what is most amazing is that she could handle anything, and did – very well! She made albums for any foreign market, but her career in Germany is worth an article all of its own; she made her first German single in 1960, the last “So Nah” (a duet with Peter Kraus) in 1992.

I have long lost count of the many hits collections of Connies music – and they all more or less contain her best known singles from 1958 until 1969. I will however, look into all her great albums, also those made in the 70s, 80s and 90s. It’s these albums that show off her many sides as a singer and they all contain great music that deserves to be heard by everybody. Her three US number ones (“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool“, “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own” and “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You“) + other well-known hits like “Who’s Sorry Now” and “Lipstick On Your Collar” are just a tiny fragment of her recorded works – so I will put the spotlight on other parts of her legacy, hopefully this will be of interest to you!

Did you know that Connie was the first singer to record “When Will The Good Apples Fall” (better known in the version recorded by The Seekers)? In 1968, Jeannie C. Riley hit big with her story song depicting life in the “Harper Valley PTA” – but did you know that Connie the same year recorded a similar themed tune called “Satan Place“? Did you know that Connie recorded a disco version of her old hit “Where The Boys Are” in the late 1970s?

Stay tuned – an in-depth look at the great Connie Francis will appear on this site in the near future!

 

Connie Francis in 2016

Connie Francis in 2016

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