"The little girl with the big voice."
August 22, 2009 7:18 AM Subscribe
posted by The Card Cheat (8 comments total)
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, an Italian-American singer born in Chicago (where, the story goes, her nanny snuck her into clubs to watch singers like Dinah Washington and Mildred Bailey), was arguable the greatest blue-eyed soul
artist of the '60s.
In 1961 she had her first (and biggest) hit with a cover of Roy Hamilton's emotional ballad "Hurt"
, so powerfully sung that many listeners first assumed she was a man, African-American, or both. Follow-ups "I Believe"
(a duet with Johnnie Ray
) and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart"
were also successful, but established her in the public's mind as a cabaret performer rather than a soul singer. This all changed with the release of her next single, the r&b barnburner "What's A Matter Baby"
and the 1963 LP Make The World Go Away
, a collection of soulful country covers that included goose pimple-inducing renditions of "Leavin' On Your Mind"
and the title track
, which would prove to be her last significant U.S. hit. "Can't Stop Running Away"
went on to become Northern Soul
favourites, but by the end of the '60s she had more or less left the music business, resurfacing only to record a few stray singles (including a 1979 cover of "Nothing Takes The Place Of You"
) before she was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1980. In 1984 she was forced to undergo a tracheotomy operation, which ended her singing career, but she lived on until March 30th, 2004, when she passed at the age of 63.