Goodbye, Blossom Dearie
February 8, 2009 2:27 PM   Subscribe

American jazz singer Blossom Dearie dead at age 82. American jazz singer Blossom Dearie died Friday in her Greenwich Village home after a long illness. For most, an acquired taste. Her voice and phrasing had a way of drawing you in, taken aback by how soft and gentle she sounded. I think it was New Yorker critic Whitney Balliet who said her voice wouldn't reach the second story of a doll house.

I was introduced to her while waiting tables in New York, a long long time ago.

You can read more about her life and music at Verve Records, at her Wikipedia page, or view/listen to a selection of her music on the internet.
posted by paddbear (66 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Oh this is very, very sad. Blossom Dearie's voice was iconic and her music can invariably make me happy. Here's to a life well lived.
posted by felix betachat at 2:29 PM on February 8, 2009

If you grew up in the 70s or 80s in the US, here is where you probably first heard her voice.
posted by codswallop at 2:30 PM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

With the group of musicians I run with in Oxford, at a certain time of night after a certain amount of wine, it is always Blossom time.

They'll be saddened by this, and I am too.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by Joe Beese at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2009

I only know about her because of that "Rhode Island's Famous For You" song, so I can't comment on the rest of her career, but that song is as good as it is corny.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here she is on the Jack Parr show doing "Surrey with the Fringe on Top"

posted by readery at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2009

Very sad news. She was truly wonderful. I still regret not taking an opportunity to see her play in the mid 90s.

I absolutely love her live version of I'm Hip.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:43 PM on February 8, 2009

I like London in the rain.
posted by iviken at 2:50 PM on February 8, 2009

I have always loved her ethereal voice. I was looking at her wikipedia page just the other day thinking how glad I was that she was still alive.

Other than her impish version of 'Always True to You in My Fashion' my favorite song of Blossom Dearie's is her version of 'Corcovado'. She can sing bossa nova without forcing the beat, which a lot of people try and fail to do.

This is a sad day.
posted by winna at 2:51 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

i have a blossom dearie story. it was 1963, and i was a junior in high school, buffalo,n.y. a suburb of it, anyway. place called cheektowaga. it was a ritual of the kids to go to the local pizza parlor, after the weekend football game on saturdays. the pizza place had a "booth" side, and a side with tables, but basically it was a hangout for all the kids after school and on weekends....oh, and takeout of course. i distinctly remember seeing a tiny woman playing the piano and singing in a little bird like voice one day as we all came trooping in after the game. bunch of noisy high schoolers. the little woman took no notice and kept playing and singing. there was a tip jar i believe, and a little placecard with her name. i thought at the time, "what an odd name".
so ms. dearie, i can only imagine all the crap places you had to play to reach the position you finally achieved. i've been a fan for a long time. r.i.p.
posted by billybobtoo at 3:00 PM on February 8, 2009 [7 favorites]

Oh, what a loss. She wasn't just a singer; she played piano too. The place to start for newbies is stuff she recorded for Verve in the mid- to late-50s: one of these truly great collections, say.

For most, an acquired taste.

You know, I always see comments like the above in discussions of Blossom Dearie (Allmusic does it, too) and have always thought the implied criticism there is way overblown. Yes, Blossom Dearie's voice is distinctive and does have something of a sexy "little girl" quality to it - at times - but there's nothing difficult about it, it's beautiful and she sings her heart out on cut after gorgeous cut. What on earth needs to be "acquired" about that is beyond me.

If you grew up in the 70s or 80s in the US, here is where you probably first heard her voice.

Yeah, the Schoolhouse Rock stuff was done via her link to longtime pal Bob Dorough, who wrote classic stuff like "3 is a Magic Number" and "Conjunction Junction." Dorough's 1956 album "Devil May Care" is another wonderfully fun and interesting small-group vocal session. One of my favorites.

Sad to see Blossom go. But she left a marvelous legacy of great 50s vocal jazz, that's for sure.
posted by mediareport at 3:06 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite singers. I've been using an MP3 of "Rhode Island is Famous For You" in website development as a test file, because if I have to test uploading over and over again, it's going to be with something I like hearing.

Here's a ten-minute interview from 1998 with Terri Gross.

And one last song to remember her by: "Sweet Georgie Fame".
posted by ardgedee at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2009

Killing Me Softly With His Song
posted by Rhomboid at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2009

Oh no! I have been such a fan for years. Her cover of Plus Je T'Embrasse gets stuck in my head every couple of months or so, and I never complain. Awww.
posted by thatbrunette at 3:32 PM on February 8, 2009

Oh what a loss. I am such a fan, and my kids are too--her version of "A Doodling Song" is a family favorite.
posted by padraigin at 3:33 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by Smart Dalek at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Wow - I hadn't thought of that Schoolhouse Rock song since the first time I saw it!

What a lovely person - and I agree with the thought upthread that someone would consider such a gentle voice "an acquired taste".

I'll go as far as to say that anyone who couldn't get behind this music would be an "acquired taste".
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:10 PM on February 8, 2009

Weird. I've had the "Figure Eight" song stuck in my head the past few days, and never even gave a thought as to who sang it; the name Blossom Dearie is completely new to me, but listening now, I recognize her voice and hear its influence far and wide. I'm glad she was in the world for a while.
posted by not_on_display at 4:18 PM on February 8, 2009

I just discovered her yesterday. A remixed song of hers accompanies a video of La Machinas big elephant (from yesterdays post about the giant spider)
I immediately went out and bought the single CD at the store. Hauntingly beautiful.
posted by phoffmann at 4:19 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by Astro Zombie at 4:25 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

It amazes me.
posted by hermitosis at 4:26 PM on February 8, 2009

Aw, she was the bestest.
posted by The Whelk at 4:29 PM on February 8, 2009

Glad I got the chance to see her play, once in my life. Her "'Deed I Do" and "Tout Doucement" are monuments.
posted by escabeche at 4:51 PM on February 8, 2009

I was introduced to her when I was looking for songs about Rhode Island after moving here and I really took to her. What a great musician. There seem to be no copies of her version of Rhode Island is Famous for You online, sadly, otherwise I'd link to it.
posted by Kattullus at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2009

A fellow that was after my wife (just before I swung into the picture ) used to make her these fantastic mix tapes and one included, "I'll Always Be True to You Darlin' in My Fashion". I loved those mix tapes.

Thanks Blossom Dearie.

Thanks Jeff.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:18 PM on February 8, 2009

Hey, Grim Reaper? Can you take a break for a little while? You're really doing a number on my favorites this year.
posted by queensissy at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 5:43 PM on February 8, 2009


Truly original.
posted by jeanmari at 5:50 PM on February 8, 2009

It was a hairy bear
it was a scary bear....

posted by tzikeh at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2009

The minute someone conflated "soft and gentle"/"little girl voice" with Schoolhouse Rock, I immediately knew it was the singer of "Figure Eight." That's the favorite of them all in our house. I look forward to learning more about Blossom Dearie. Thanks for the post, paddbear.
posted by pineapple at 6:00 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by CitizenD at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2009

She was hip.

posted by cogneuro at 6:40 PM on February 8, 2009

Oh wow.

I grew up on the Schoolhouse Rock thing. Then, about six months ago, I inadvertently downloaded Blossom's cover of "Always True to You in My Fashion" and was hooked on her version of the song. After googling who she was and finding the connection with Schoolhouse Rock, I thought that was pretty cool, but let it rest there.

Then, about a week ago, that song came up in my shuffle. Intrigued once more, I scoped her out on I never knew she'd been so prolific. All this past week, I've been immersed in her music. It was like I'd just discovered this unknown jewel (unknown to me, anyway).

Now this post...

I knew her voice from my youth, but only began to get to know her as a musician a week ago. God bless you, Blossom, Dearie. I'll always be true to you in my fashion.
posted by darkstar at 6:50 PM on February 8, 2009

Sad to see Blossom go. But she left a marvelous legacy of great 50s vocal jazz, that's for sure.

Blossom Dearie was performing actively for at least three decades, not just the 50s. I have her album, Blossom Dearie Sings, that she released on her own Daffodil Records. I especially love the song, I'm Shadowing You. She had a voice that was smooth and girlish, yet never immature. This is a bit of a blow for me. She had voice that made you think she had found the key to eternal youth.

posted by jonp72 at 6:56 PM on February 8, 2009

I came to Blossom Dearie through the video hermitosis linked. From there, I tracked down the song, then the CD, which is not easy to get. Next I thought I'd look up the original singer who had been sampled and buy a CD of hers.

Finally I realized that I'd been hearing her on Schoolhouse Rock decades ago singing about how one can describe things with adjectives and that it was a small world when it comes to talent. Now just a tiny bit smaller.
posted by adipocere at 7:13 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by box at 7:15 PM on February 8, 2009

Figure 8 was my favorite Schoolhouse Rock song (the only one recorded in a minor key). I liked it so much I even downloaded covers of it. I'm embarrassed to write that I never bothered investigating her non-SR career. I now find that I like the sound of her voice on this tribute as well - thanks for posting it.
posted by tenmuses at 7:37 PM on February 8, 2009

"Tea For Two" is, to me, the ultimate lovesong. No listing of it on YouTube, so find it and listen to it now.

posted by waraw at 7:44 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by peggynature at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2009

In contrast to the Playbill obituary from the FPP, the NYT obituary claims that her name really WAS Blossom Dearie: "Born Marguerite Blossom Dearie in East Durham, N.Y., on April 29, 1926..." I'm going to choose to believe the Times on this one.

This was linked up above, but seriously: Blossom Dearie hated hipsters before you were born.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:49 PM on February 8, 2009

The dynamic intimacy of Madame Dearie's ballads has been one of the the few things that still may leave me bleary-eyed in these recent years. Thanks for the post.

posted by dagosto at 8:26 PM on February 8, 2009

Thanks for the post. Dearie was a singer whose voice always conveyed a sense of optimism that her songs couldn't have done without her. Find her version of "Put on a Happy Face." Let's hope she knew what a treasure she was before she went. A true treasure.

posted by Gilbert at 8:44 PM on February 8, 2009

I like her stuff about serial murder: To Keep My Love Alive.

posted by mattbucher at 8:59 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by mike3k at 9:09 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:28 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by ysabella at 10:23 PM on February 8, 2009

Damn. I knew that was coming soon when I saw her website went offline.

A lot of my singing inspirations have been passing away lately. When I was very very small I remember watching the Figure 8 Schoolhouse Rock and starting to cry. It happened every time I saw it, I would just be mesmerized and start crying. I had no idea who she was, all I knew was I found the voice and melody were too beautiful for me to handle somehow. (I still suck at math, though... so the message was apparently lost on me.) Blossom will always be a major influence of mine though, because her work has always driven the point home to me that you do not need to belt or do vocal gymnastics (even if you *can*) when your goal is to tell a story in a touching and poignant, beautiful way. Sometimes if you focus on the story and sing softly (If you're on a mic WHY yell?), it has far more power.

I was lucky enough to get a front row table to see her at Danny's Skylight Room in 2004 or 2005. She was feisty as ever, before the show a guy walked up to us and said, "Excuse me. Please make sure that when Miss Dearie is onstage you do not put your feet on the stage. She doesn't like that." I've heard tales of her temper and I was almost tempted to do it just to have her yell at me in that sweet voice of hers.

After the show, I got her to autograph a CD for me (I'll admit, she was a bit cranky -- I don't think she was feeling well) and it sits on my piano. If my place was burning down, it's one of the things I would grab.

A big, gigantic •
posted by miss lynnster at 10:44 PM on February 8, 2009

BTW, I have a Bob Dorough story too. He's the oldest man to ever flirt with me, and it was *hysterical*, but I'll save that story for another time.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:56 PM on February 8, 2009

Okay, this is interesting. So I was looking for a link to one of my very favorite Blossom Dearie songs by Cy Coleman... and I only found one youtube video for it. And huh... I must admit I never imagined her as a soundtrack for softcore gay porn illustrations before (no real nudity shown, just implied man love). Huh.

Here are a few other favorites of mine that she did though... with less risque visuals.
Try Your Wings -- another song that is so sweet it makes me want to cry.
I'm Hip -- written by Dave Frishberg to be sung by a man, it always makes me laugh when she sings about growing a beard
Don't Wait Too Long -- Her theme song for the older woman/younger man romance
Surrey With The Fringe On Top -- Early live performance on the Tonight Show With Jack Paar

Most of my faves aren't on there though. Her version of Rhode Island is Famous for You is hands down my favorite, and I love all of her french stuff too. She was just awesome.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:35 PM on February 8, 2009

posted by eurandom at 2:12 AM on February 9, 2009


I loved her voice - and the songs she did in French especially (she lived in Paris for a while). Here is her version of It Might as Well be Spring.
posted by rongorongo at 3:26 AM on February 9, 2009


an amazing talent and one of my favorite singers.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:32 AM on February 9, 2009

Add me to the "remembered her from Schoolhouse Rock, sought out her other work on my own, thought she was the bee's knees, regret now that I never got to see her perform" list.


posted by Spatch at 5:29 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for everything, Blossom.
posted by trip and a half at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Too bad I can't find an online version of 'Dearie's Blues': 'If you don't like my peaches baby, why did you shake my tree'...
posted by of strange foe at 7:56 AM on February 9, 2009

My introduction was her version of Give Him the Ooh La La. She soon became one of my favorite jazz singers and I will really miss her.
posted by Sculthorpe at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2009


I was introduced to Blossom Dearie ("I'm Hip") years ago by a friend. Such a unique voice. Loved her. And I never knew the Schoolhouse Rock connection. I'll have to check that out...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:19 AM on February 9, 2009

'everything i got belongs to you' was my blossom cherry. goddamn. nothing pretentious about her, just effortless taste and cool. goodbye, blossom.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2009

What a lovely bubbly voice she had. A wonderful bubbly voice.
posted by doctorschlock at 1:36 PM on February 9, 2009

Wow. This one hit me seriously hard. Irrationally hard, maybe. The world is a dimmer place today. I honestly don't remember how I first heard of Blossom Dearie -- I suspect that I might have taken a flier on a used copy of her first album because I was intrigued by her name. But I can't forget the ridiculous grin that broke out on my face when I first heard "Blossom's Blues." "Ray Brown told me I was built for speed..." -- before that, I was charmed. After that I was completely hooked.

Like barret cault says above, "Ev'ry thing I Got" is the one that always gets me. The line "There's a trick with a kife I'm learning to do..." delivered in that wisp of a voice of hers never never failed to make me smile. It was a dream of mine to relocate back to the east coast before she stopped performing. I didn't make it in time, and I regret that. But I'll be listening to plenty of Blossom tonight.

(Thanks, too, to everbody who's posted those wonderful youtube links!).
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2009

For the Rhode Islanders, famous and otherwise
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 2:49 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh no. I guess I'd sort of assumed she was immortal.

I can't forget the ridiculous grin that broke out on my face when I first heard "Blossom's Blues." "Ray Brown told me I was built for speed..."

Me too.
posted by tangerine at 3:57 PM on February 9, 2009

I can pretty much spend the whole day listening to "Blossom Dearie sings Comden and Green" on repeat.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:13 PM on February 9, 2009

The Guardian have an interesting obituary - with a little more about her time in London and Paris.
posted by rongorongo at 5:01 AM on February 10, 2009

All day long I've been singing Blossom tunes. I'm gonna work with my guitarist to learn some new ones this weekend I think. In the past few years, so many people who influenced me and I was fortunate enough to meet have passed away... Blossom, Anita O'Day, Hadda Brooks... I owe them so much that it just kind of makes me feel guilty for not focusing on performing more. It makes me want to in their honor.

Blossom in particular, her death is really hitting me and making me want to sing more. Even though it's true, she was clearly a bit "prickly" as a person, the lessons I've gleaned from her musical choices will always be incorporated into my own music. In my book, she's just freakin' *awesome*. RIP.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:13 PM on February 10, 2009

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