I have a high affinity for the great pop/jazz standards and all the singers that perfected these compositions. From Frank Sinatra to Lena Horne, I consider this the golden era of music. It was the greatest generation.
Through my music travels, I recently came upon the song, “People,” by London based composer and singer-songwriter Natasha Tyrimos. This song is a rare breed as it tied the golden era with today’s popular music.
From the song’s gentle piano opening to Tyrimos vocal layers, one can easily see this performed in the classic halls of New York City’s The Palace Theatre and The London Pladdium. “People” has an elegant, yet simple, orchestration led by a piano with hints of clarinet.
The essence of “People” can take two routes, depending on the listener’s viewpoint. From one angle, the song is a discovery of love declaring, “Will you feel love, love within?” From another view, one can see this song as melancholy with the singer having lost love or a desire to be loved.
These angles are portrayed through Tyrimos rich vocals. Think of her as Sara Bareilles meets Judy Garland, but don’t let this define her. Her voice has a classic breadth mixed with modern stylings.
Bottom line, it’s a must listen. Check out Tyrimos’ Spotify link below and give “People” a listen. Then share it with all those you love. For this song embodies love from all angles and love is a wonderful thing.
Click the album artwork to check out “People” and Natasha Tyrimo’s complete catalog on Spotify.
I haven’t written in a while. Life has gotten away from me and I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. Today felt like a fitting return, as it is a day to truly celebrate.
Many strong women have impacted me through out my life. From my mom to mentors, women have had a profound impact on my character and integrity. As a self proclaimed quasi-feminist, I truly value women’s impact on our society, and to be honest, I feel sad that we need to be reminded to celebrate them.
That’s another argument to be had another day, today I want to celebrate International Women’s Day. In celebration, I have comprised a list of the top female trailblazers in music history. It’s safe to note, this list is not a comprehensive list. One may not agree with all my choices, but I think we will all agree these women are music royalty and deserve to be celebrated.
To say that I am a fan of Wanda Jackson is an understatement. I adore her music, faith, and tenacity in her life and career. Jackson created the female rockstar and the country bombshell at the same time. If it wasn’t for her there would not be any Joan Jetts or Carrie Underwoods. The best thing about her trailblazing history is that she didn’t even know what she was causing at the time, but she knew she was doing something.
Cher has as many definitions as she does hair colors, but she was the original female pop mega star. Not only did she have immense success as 1/2 of Sonny and Cher, she went on to score 3 number one hits in the early 1970’s. The press couldn’t get enough of her and neither could her fans. To this day she keeps blazing new ways showing that superstars are ageless while defining “Twitter advocacy.”
If Cher created the first female pop mega star, then Diana Ross created the first female soul/R&B mega star. From her early days with The Supremes to her continuous solo career, Ross has more iconic hits then one can remember. Ross created fierce and paved the way for African American females in the music industry.
As a die-in-the-wool Oklahoman, I love Reba McEntire. As a music fan, I am devoted to everything she touches. Her career started in the early 1970’s without much success, until she finally hit number one in 1982 with “Can’t Even Get The Blues.” She created the country music superstar single handedly while always keeping the tradition of those who came before her. Not far from being over, she just won the “Best Roots Gospel Album” at the 2018 Grammys.
There is so much to be said of Tina Turner. She created the “comeback.” After a tumultuous and abusive relationship with her husband and musical partner Ike Turner, Tina walked away with only her name. She began to perform in Vegas dives for someone of her caliber until Capital records took a chance on her. Thus she created “Private Dancer” and the rest is history.
Although I am not particularly a huge fan of Madonna, I do respect what she has done in the music industry. With that being said, I have nothing left to say.
7. Billie Holiday
As Paula Cole pointed out to me, Billie Holiday was the first great female American singer/ songwriter. Writing classics like “Don’t Explain” and “God Bless The Child,” Holiday declared herself the mother of jazz vocals. She was also one of the original leading musicians to take a social stand with her music with the song “Strange Fruit.”
Judy Garland was the greatest American stage performer. Her voice could touch every emotion and her presence could fill any venue. Sadly, we lost Garland when she was just 47 years old. Although many remember her from The Wizard of Oz, she was more than Dorothy.
It is not a secret to many of my friends and family, especially my mom, that I am slightly fascinated with musicians and performers. Some may even say that “slightly” is an understatement or some may just flatly tell you how annoying I am when I start spewing facts about random artists.
Now I can tell you some really odd things about random musicians. Did you know that Kiss was the first band ever signed to the Casablanca record label?? Did you know Adele wrote “Turning Tables” with Ryan Tedder who is from Oklahoma and I’m from Oklahoma?? Did you know that Madonna has to have her dressing room fumigated after each concert to make sure nobody sells her tissues?
I think I just annoyed myself.
One of my favorite artists to study is Judy Garland. I have literally been a fan for nearly my whole life. I saw “The Judy Garland Christmas Special” on Nick at Night when I was 4 and the rest is history.
So naturally as I went to pick out a book to read after my recent move to New York state, I decided to pick out another book about Garland. My choice was Judy & Liza & Freddie & David & Sue & Me by Stevie Phillips. Phillips is a very successful former agent of many of music and films biggest stars. She got her start with Garland and she had loads of success with Liza Minnelli. Not to mention she also worked with David Bowie, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, and Hollywood’s “super agent” Sue Mengers. Basically this book couldn’t be more up my alley.
This book left my mind loaded with new knowledge. I was taken aback by Phillips candor over her workings with Garland and Minnelli. Her career fascinated me to no end. So to make a long story short or to prevent a short story from being long, I got in contact with Phillips and asked her if I could interview her. To my delight, she obliged.
I hope that my interview with Phillips will serve as a teaser to her book. I fully encourage you to read this book. It will leave you with so much more than what Garland’s favorite wine was. I have included all links to purchase this book at the end of this article.
To start off the interview, I wanted to basically ask Phillips, how she survived the fickle world of show business. Once you read this book, you will see that her path was one less traveled.
Well. There are two things I have to respond to in answer to your question. One is my upbringing, my loneliness as a child. My parents were both in retail as you read in the book. They were gone from before I woke up in the morning until after I went to bed at night…
Movies were my best babysitter…If I had to name my favorite picture I would have to say at the time it was Meet Me In St. Louis…I wanted to be Ester Smith. I wanted her family. I wanted to have a crush on the boy next door. I wanted that life. A paradox in my life was that of Esther Smith, the role that Judy played in the picture turned out to be nothing like the real Judy. That was what it was…
Now, the second answer to that question is, Judy became the prism of which I viewed my life. I wrote that also. She taught me, not because she was a mentor, she was anything else but. I had to survive and help her to survive. I learned how not to fold.
This is one of the major themes of the book, how not to fold. Phillips first began her career has Garland’s “shadow.” She followed Garland everywhere she went as she embarked on a tour in hope to revive her career. Garland had signed with Phillips’ bosses, Freddie Fields and David Begelman. She became to know all of Garland’s idiosyncracies and erratic habits. She often cites this as one of her biggest challenges, but proves that nothing can stop ambition and drive.
I entered my life in show business with the ambition born out of my loneliness and was not going to let Judy or any other name stop me.
It was a humongous amount of drive, but finally Judy Garland was Judy Garland up there on the screen, but in the living room Judy Garland was just another human being and not a very nice one by any means.
Now I have a huge amount of respect for musical icons and Garland is at the top. I imagine that if I met Garland today, I would stop dead in my tracks. I was immediately taken aback by Phillips’ candor. She was very honest in her book, but that wasn’t just in writing. She began to lay everything out just the way she saw it.
As I did research for this book, I found many positive and negative reviews. There was harsh criticism coming from Garland’s die-hard fan base that Phillips was tainting her legacy. Although I would consider myself somewhat in this base, I took a different approach. This memoir actually made me a bigger fan of Garland’s. Phillips humanized Garland and her troubled life. Garland isn’t a myth.
I am grateful that you said that. You are not the first to say that and I appreciate that criticism. I have looked on Amazon and at some of the criticism I have gotten. Some of it is really, really hard to take. I looked at it and thought to myself, ‘Whoa, I’m sorry I made that person so unhappy.’ Mostly, the worst of the criticism came from people who found it very presumptuous of me to criticize her [Judy Garland] at all. That her legacy should be left intact. Her legacy is a great one and perhaps all those critics are correct. I’m not going to imagine that I know more than they. They are entitled to their opinions and it is what it is. Judy was a real person and it was the realness of her life that informed mine. So why would I pretend that she was anything else
Phillips’ book chronicles many of Garland’s mishaps that Phillips ultimately had to manage. This included putting out many fires and she means this both literally and figuratively. Some may think that Phillips has a grim view on Garland, but that simply isn’t so. Garland had become a victim of addiction through her surroundings and her own making. Although Phillips had many times with Garland that were completely scary, like Garland chasing her with a knife, this isn’t what she holds on to, nor does she blame Garland.
Sometimes what remains in my mind about her is absolutely terrific. I still think, without a doubt, she is certainly one of the finest performers that this country has ever produced. She was amazing. She woud get out there on the stage and I would not care how much havoc she had brought in my life. She would perform and it would all go away. It was just extraordinary to watch her. At the same time there is the other part that is mean and nasty and I don’t blame her. How do you blame somebody for having a disease? Addiction is a disease and it’s a terrible disease and she was terribly afflicted and there were times when I swear if I could have put her through a brick wall I would have done it, but I never wanted less then to save her. I got angry, but in the end I wish I could have changed the addiction. I wish I could have changed the things that made me angry. It made me angry that she suffered. It made me angry that she did the things she did that she could not control.
Her addiction defined her. It cut her off from understanding that she had other options. She never recognized that the poor choices were hers…
I wanted her to be able to perform. Not just so that my bosses would make the money, not just so I would earn my salary, but because she was magnificent on the stage. I wanted to see her career go on.
Even though Phillips may have had these awful experiences with
Garland, the end resulted in who she became as an agent and, more importantly, a person. Would Phillips give Garland any thanks?
I am absolutely grateful to her. No question about it. She taught me how not to fold…I went through some seriously scary, seriously challenging events with her and discovered in the process how strong I was, that I could be confident of my intelligence. I owe her. I am grateful for all of that.
After Phillips finished being Garland’s shadow, she had proved to her bosses that she had what it took to hold the real power in show business. This eventually led to her representing Liza Minnelli in her career’s most formative years.
The fact that I survived was an indication to my two bosses that I was dependable, that I could be counted upon. Of course it was the gateway to representing Liza. My success with Liza opened doors for me in other areas..Certainly the most important thing that I learned besides surviving was what I learned from my real mentor, Freddie Fields, which was like in all businesses, not just show business, the business belongs in the hands that sign the clients. And I became a client signer.
Now Phillips was signing the clients and Minnelli became one of the biggest stars she represented. Although their history is far from just an agent and a client, they were connected by Garland.
I felt a connection to Judy, but mostly I felt sorry for Liza. Judy abandoned Liza. I’m not saying Judy didn’t care for Liza. Judy had genuine affection for her children, but that didn’t make her a great mother. There is no doubt in my mind she loved them, but her life was affected by the addictions and the pressures put on her that she couldn’t handle and it was hard under those circumstances to be the mother of all mothers.
When Garland left to record her TV show in California, Liza did not move with her. Phillips quickly became the most stable figure in Minnelli’s life and guided the foundation of her career. She was Minnelli’s agent when Minnelli won an Academy Award for Cabaret followed by her legendary concert for television Liza With a “Z”. In addition to guiding Minnelli’s career, Phillips lent her home to Minnelli through many of these formative years. She even hosted Minnelli’s wedding in her apartment. Sadly, Minnelli and Phillips severed ways due to a personnel decision made by Minnelli and they don’t have a relationship today.
By this time in our conversation and while reading the book, the legends that Phillips wrote and spoke about became second. I began to resonate with Phillips’ story in a different way. Her book no longer belonged in the “Music” section at Barnes and Noble, it now belonged in the inspirational section.
I quickly realized that Phillips is everything I want to see in myself. The tenacity she portrays during her trials with Garland, Minnelli, and in her personal life is nothing short of an education. Phillips taught me to never fold and to always keep moving, no matter the setbacks that life throws at you. If you keep moving and keep your eyes on your ambition, then success is inevitable.
As I briefly told Phillips of some of my ambitions, she even starting giving me advice.
A lot of people have opportunities; they just don’t see them. Opportunity comes knocking on the door and people don’t recognize it. When you see a chance to do something, however little sense it may make, if you feel that it’s going to lead you down a road that is exciting, take the chance! There is nothing as exciting as change and a lot of people are scared of it. A lot of people don’t see opportunity when it comes and slams them in the face.
So in the end, this book wasn’t just about Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, or Robert Redford. Although, I did learn a lot of new facts to annoy my friends with. When I asked her why she wrote the book, this just backed up my reasoning.
I think it’s because I thought I had wonderful stories to tell. I think it’s because I felt that people could benefit, could learn something from the stories I had to tell. They were such wonderful stories that were worth telling….
These stories were definitely worth telling for they are not just historical, they are impactful. Phillips’ life needed to be secured in the books and she cemented it in. Even today she is still working on projects and talks about producing more musicals on Broadway, something we weren’t even able to touch on in our interview.
It’s been a hell of a ride, Gabe. I have had a wonderful career and the fact that I am still trying to create it amuses me.
Not only did I learn about some of my favorite musicians through Phillips, but I also learned valuable life lessons from real world experience. This is not a book I can only read once. Phillips has given me more than history; she has shared the wisdom she gained from these experiences. I only hope to emulate half of what she was able to portray and I hope this is not our last encounter.
Lastly, I wanted to leave you with what Phillips would say to Garland today if she was still alive. These are profound words that many of us need to live by today. She speaks of this not because she is a puritan; she assured me she is far from it. So what would Stevie Phillips say to Judy Garland today?
I just hope Phillips doesn’t mean coffee. I would sure love to have another conversation with her over a pumpkin spice latte this fall and learn some new facts to annoy my mom with. Ohh, the dreams of a music aficionado.
Artist: Judy Garland Album: Judy in Hollywood Original Soundtrack- Judy Garland T.V. Show
I swear my whole series going through my selves of vinyl is not going to be over Judy Garland. It is just where I started! Tonight I listened to some of my favorite recordings from my favorite era in Garland’s career, the 1960’s.
Some may crack jokes or discredit this time in career due to her many troubles and what some perceived as “wear on her voice.” I take the exact opposite approach. I think these are some of her best vocals that show the rawest emotion. These were her “I have survived and have nothing to prove” performances. She was already a living legend.
All these recordings are from The Judy Garland T.V. Show. This was a short-lived series, but these recordings and performances are some of her best. The album was released by a label named Radiant, which seemed to only release Garland’s T.V. show performances and a variety of country albums. There is not a date on this album, but this was made after Garland’s untimely death in 1969.
This album focus’ on songs that Garland sang specifically from movies. Some of these tunes are from her own films like “A Couple of Swells” from Easter Parade and “The Boy Next Door” from Meet Me in St. Louis as well as covers of songs from popular movies and shows.
The real take aways from this album are her covers. Garland is nearly flawless in her rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me.” This song compounds many of Garland’s true emotions she had through her many relationships, but it also touches on one of her biggest assets and crutches, her undying loyalty. Other great take aways from this album are “How About Me,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” and her tribute to her son, “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face.”
Key Tracks: “A Couple of Swells,” Medley of “You Made Me Love You,” “For Me and My Gal,” and “The Trolley Song,” “That’s Entertainment”
Deep Cuts: “As Long As He Needs Me.” “How About Me,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz”
I recently realized that I have a lot of vinyl records. Some would say too many, but I say you never have enough vinyl. So I have decided to finally dust my selves and unearth the many gems I have yet to write about, thus I am starting a new series. Some reviews may be short, some long, but this will be a journey of rediscovering the music I already have on my selves.
In other words I’m broke and cannot buy any new records at the moment.
Presenting Post 1 in “Dusting My Selves:” Artist: Judy Garland Album: Judy Garland in Song
Everybody that knows me will tell you that I absolutely adore Judy Garland and her seemingly endless, multifaceted, unexplainable voice. She is by far one of my favorite artists and she is pretty damn close to being my down right, undisputed favorite.
I own many of Garland’s albums, from her Capital years to compilations to live performances. There isn’t much more I can write about this superstar. Yet, each Garland album spurs new emotions, thoughts, and insights into this magnificent performer. I just cannot keep them to myself.
Last night I began my venture through Garland’s catalog with a compilation album, Judy Garland In Song. This is an album released of many “staple” songs from Garland’s MGM movie career released by Metro Records. This album was probably an effort to seize on the success of Garland’s performances post MGM.
This album covers everything from “Over The Rainbow” from The
Wizard of Oz to “Last Night When We Were Young” from In The Good Old Summertime. Oddly this collection leaves out “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me In St. Louis.
Each tune is a gem on this album with my favorites being “Get Happy” from Summer Stock, “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” from Annie Get Your Gun, of which Garland was unable to finish, and “I Don’t Care” again from In The Good Old Summertime. The songs take a journey through Garland’s voice from her adolescent years to early twenties, although they are not in order.
What struck me with this album is the emotional awareness Garland possessed at such an early age. Emotion is raw in Garland’s voice and that was apparent from the very beginning. This album also proved how versatile a performer and actress she was as well. Listening to songs from her movies back to back are nearly like listening to a chameleon sing!
To think that Garland was essentially just getting started when she recorded these songs is remarkable. We still nearly had two more decades of songs, performances, and films to come from this legendary artist. Garland and her voice were in their formative years at the point of these recordings. She still had a lot more in store for the world.
Key Tracks: “Over The Rainbow,” “Get Happy,” “You Made Me Love You”
Deep Cuts: “Better Luck Next Time,” “Last Night When We Were Young,” “Bel Mir Bist Du Schon”
As I have dived deeper into the music listening world of vinyl albums, I have found a culture emerge, especially in the realm of vintage vinyl. I have vinyl records ranging from the 1940’s to today, but there is a different quality to some of my more dated albums and artists.
Back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s performers had a real task on their hands. Their career could not simply evolve around annual albums and recordings. These performers had to prove themselves time and time again in front of audiences. They had one shot to prove who they were, if it was an audience of 5 or broadcast to millions of people across the world. Their performance and raw talent defined their success.
These performances did not have rewind, pause, or “do over” opportunities. It was a one shot game. If they missed, the audience in front may walk away, but if they made it, they had audiences for a lifetime.
That is exactly why I am a fan of Melinda Doolittle. Many of you will remember her from American Idol season six where she came in 3rd, yet I remember her for her timeless performances and how she encompasses the vinyl culture.
I recently sat down with Doolittle via Skype for a one on one conversation about her career, performance style, and what the music world means to her. After speaking with her one on one, I can tell you she is an artist of sincerity, skill, and raw talent.
To know Doolittle’s career and to understand her character and ambition, one must first start at American Idol. Ironically, this was a competition based solely on performance. We quickly began discussing different aspects of her season on American Idol, like what was it like to have Diana Ross as a mentor and the audition process. Doolittle told the story of how she went to try out for American Idol with a group of friends, frankly not expecting to get anywhere.
“When my friend talked me into auditioning for Idol, I thought of it like a joke. First of all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Secondly, that I would make it as far as I did.”
This wasn’t a lack of confidence on Doolittle’s part though, she was simply content in her line of work. She had become a “first call” back up singer in Nashville. Often producers would wait for Doolittle to come into the studio and lay down background vocals for different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Michael McDonald.
“I loved singing background and I had the delusion that when the show was over that I would go back to that…It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to have to do the artist thing.”
Many of Doolittle’s performances dominated season six of American Idol. She got rave reviews for many of her performances from the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Her first big breakthrough was her rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” after which Jackson said she was the one to beat. Cowell began to call Doolittle his personal favorite. When she was eliminated in the top three Cowell has remarked that she should have won.
Although, Doolittle was actually at ease when she didn’t win the American Idol crown. She said she was content and “not upset at all” when Ryan Seacrest called her name to be eliminated.
“The fact I made it to 3rd doesn’t sound right in my head and I never expected it, but it forced me to learn I really did have a voice as an artist. It taught me what my voice was.”
American Idol may have taught Doolittle what her voice was, but what she channels in her talents today is remarkable.
After season six, American Idol went on to set up meetings for Doolittle with various labels, most of tem being Christian labels. Doolittle, who is an avid Christian, didn’t want to sign with a Christian label. Although she is a woman of strong faith and her concerts today are not complete with out a few gospel numbers, she wanted to make a different kind of record.
In the end, Doolittle was happy with the path her career initially took. She was free of a contract and in charge of her own musical fate. Doolittle began to shop around labels and eventually signed with Hi-Fi Records and recorded her debut album Coming Back To You. This was Doolittle’s coming out record for she took 10 steps up to the front mic for a full record. Now she needed backup singers.
“Idol forced me into being an artist, which is great. I feel like God tricked me into actually being an artist.”
Although this gave Doolittle freedom, she was also sceptical. When Doolittle began looking for labels she didn’t know what kind of music she wanted to do. She had already ruled out a Christian record at the moment and she was now ruling out pop, for a very observant reason.
“I feel when I try to sing pop it’s like an elephant stomping on a track. The track is all nice, light, and airy, and then I sing. I have a heavy voice.”
So Coming Back to You resulted in a pure soul album that was reminiscent of Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, and Al Green. Doolittle said that she is just an old school girl and she didn’t know anything different. She made an album that was her style and by her own rules.
Doolittle has gone on to release various recordings that have received praise. Her most recent set of recordings is an extended play titled You’re The Reason in 2013. These tracks find Doolittle experimenting with modern R&B with a dash of pop while keeping in touch with her old-school, soulful roots. With this EP Doolittle co-wrote 3 of the 7 tracks. Writing was some what new for Doolittle and this process became therapeutic.
“When I went into the studio we were supposed to write a fun, up-beat, really great song. They asked me ‘What has been going on in your life?’ These people on Twitter had just reamed me. I posted a picture and they were saying ‘you’re so ugly.’ They were saying the worst things and I was so hurt by it, but I was trying to be strong about it…I needed to find out what my reaction to that is.”
Rolling with the punches was not an option for her and it was time to take a stand in her professional and personal life. Doolittle said she really didn’t find out who she was till about two years ago when this EP was released. This is obvious in the song content and the history behind these recordings.
Although Doolittle had recorded with success, she stated that making records was not her favorite aspect of being an artist. So instead of delving deeper into her recordings we began to discuss her favorite way of delivering music: live performance. She was quick to say why she loved singing live.
“If there is not an audience I am bored out of my mind.”
Since American Idol Doolittle has performed around the world. She has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall and The White House, amoungst many others. These experiences led Doolittle to look at making music differently then the industry’s generic formula. She decided to define herself through performing, not an album.
“From now on I’m going to let the shows determine the record. A lot of people let the record determine the show.”
Today, Doolittle decides what works with her voice by watching an audience’s reaction. It’s all about what the crowd brings out in her at that moment. The song has to work for both her and the people she is singing for. Then, I was curious what the determining factors assisted Doolittle in making musical choices.
“It’s the give and take with the audience. It doesn’t have to be because of applause. Sometimes I see it in somebody’s eyes, somebody cries when I’m singing or just like, I see joy on people’s faces in the audience….If their joy matches the joy I have singing it, then I found the song that works for both of us.”
For Doolittle it is completely about the performance of the music in the here and now. Sure, she makes brilliant recordings, but that’s not the only aspect she is focused on when it comes to music. She stated how she didn’t care about the production or how grand the show was, the most important thing to Doolittle is how her music connects with an audience. She likes to see this first-hand, when she has her one chance to prove to the people immediately in front of her that she is a true artist with real talent.
This is a little reminiscent of days past.
“I need people to have an experience when they come to a show. I need it to be an escape, because the world we live in is not fun.”
Number one songs and awards don’t determine Doolittle’s status as a musician, nor does she particularly care about accolades. An artist’s true mission should be the music, the message, and the performance. If the music doesn’t resonate what does it mean? If the performance isn’t an experience, why would you go?
Doolittle isn’t of the old school, she’s of the real school. She can really sing and she can really perform.
She doesn’t take music lightly and she is a master of her song in its rawest environment, a live performance. This is what the singers of yesterday possessed, but that doesn’t mean it is an antiquated idea. This is what I believe is the vinyl culture. The reason I collect vinyl is for its genuine, warm, and pure vocals. Basically, the over all performance.
Vintage vinyl has within its groves some of the best, unaltered voices and performances of some of the greatest artists. It took a certain caliber to make a record and perform when these albums were made. Doolittle is of the vinyl caliber.
Doolittle does not take this feat lightly and she is aware of the torch she is carrying. She explained how it meant the world to her when people compliment her and tell her how she channels the great soul and classic artists.
“I met Percy Sledge before he died. He stopped me backstage at an event we did together. He said ‘You carry our mantle and there aren’t many who will. Please don’t loose that. Please continue to do this. Promise me that you will.’ I was like ‘Oh yes sir'”
As I talked with Doolittle and as I have listened to her music, I have fumed over so many names in my head of who’s mantle she is carrying. I’ve thought Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and many more. The true question is now, how does Doolittle want to be remembered? Who does she look up too.
“I want to be Barbra [Streisand] with a side of Gladys [Knight].”
That, my fellow vinyl collectors, is the essence of a true performer, one that belongs on vinyl. Doolittle reminds me of the legends and performers that have come and gone, but the most important thing Doolittle reminds me is that….
There is just something about her voice that completely entrances me every time I hear one of her recordings. She is one of the greatest vocalists and entertainers our world will ever see and in my opinion, she is the best.
Most people know Garland from her career defining role in The Wizard of Oz. She filmed this movie for MGM studios when she was a mere 16. This role catapulted her into super stardom and her signature song “Over The Rainbow,” sung by a kid willing to dream, was cemented in the hearts of every American. She would go on to make countless classics for MGM including Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls, and Easter Parade.
Although that is not where my fascination with this vocal legend started. I am a fan of her later years in show business, mainly from 1951-1969, the year she died. Throughout these years she was less known for the movies she made, but for her live performances. She did make some amazing films during this period like A Star is Born, but they were few and far between compared to her days at MGM.
When I was in elementary school I watched the Judy Garland Christmas Special on TV, but it wasn’t until my middle school years that my mom bought me the CD Judy At The Palace. I was immediately hooked from her rousing renditions of “Rock a Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” and “Get Happy.” Then there was her encore encore of “Over The Rainbow.” Hook. Line. Sinker. I have collected every Garland vinyl since then.
So I have decided to compile some of my favorite Garland performances and bring them to you here. Some are cliché of most Garland fans, but some are rarities that I hope you will surprisingly enjoy.
“Down With Love”
This is a recent favorite of mine. Her catalog is so large and her recordings seem endless. She did this on her ill-fated variety show. It’s a good “screw you” to all the men that had mistreated her throughout her life, not to mention CBS’ treatment of her during filming.
“When You’re Smiling”
Garland opened her legendary concert at Carnegie Hall with this number in 1961. This live album, Judy At Carnegie Hall, is her most legendary album, which is an ode to the brilliance of her performances. Since there isn’t a video recording of this concert I leave you with this version. She often opened shows with the this joyous number and it shows off her comedic chops.
Garland’s version of “By Myself” is superb compared to everyone elses’. She feels each note with consistent emotion and the ambition to move forward with life. This is another song she sang from personal experience. Her performance is pure perfection. It is sad that CBS cut this number from one of her shows because they thought it was too dark.
“What Now My Love”
Garland’s vocals nearly blew me out of the window when I first heard her rendition of this classic. She first approaches it with a veil of vulnerability, but ends with a shroud of confidence. The closing note of the song gives me chills.
“As Long as He Needs Me”
This song has been a long time favorite of mine. I have heard it sung by many different ladies and I haven’t found a version I didn’t like yet. There is something different about Garland’s approach though. Her rendition shows a different side of Garland. We’ve seen the bitter and empowered Garland through her song choices. Her raw emotion in this song portrays her desire to be loved and to not be seen as a commodity. She didn’t want to need someone. She wanted to be needed.
Every time I unearth a new Garland recording, or hell, every time I listen to Garland I am always amazed. There are no words that describe my admiration for this amazing lady and how her vocals penetrate directly to my soul. We all have that one artist and for me it will always be Judy Garland.
These performances are just barely a peek into her extraordinary career. I am so thankful that we have all these performances from her variety show. These performances are some of the last glimpses we have of this legend and sadly they are her last great recorded works.
As I come to a close I would like to remember Judy Garland in this form. I have read books and watched documentaries on Garland’s life and they always focus on her troubles. I think this is unfair. Garland lived a magnificent life doing what she loved to do: entertain. Through her gift she continues to touch thousands of lives and through this gift she paved the way for modern entertainment.