by Rosemary Clooney
Before the rock & roll revolution, Rosemary Clooney was one of the most popular female singers in America, rising to superstardom during the golden age of adult pop. Like many of her peers in the so-called “girl singer” movement — Doris Day, Kay Starr, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, et al. — Clooney’s style was grounded in jazz, particularly big-band swing. She wasn’t an improviser or a technical virtuoso, and lacked the training to stand on an equal footing with the greatest true jazz singers. However, she sang with an effortless, spirited swing, and was everything else a great pop singer of her era should have been. Her phrasing and diction were flawless, and her voice was warm, smooth, and relaxed; moreover, she was a sensitive and emotionally committed interpreter of lyrics. Some of her biggest hits were dialect-filled novelty songs, like her star-making breakthrough “Come On-a My House” from 1951, but she generally preferred to tackle more sophisticated fare, and recorded with numerous duet partners, jazz
orchestras, and top-tier arrangers. Changing tastes and various personal problems conspired to stall her career in the ’60s, culminating in a nervous breakdown in 1968. However, she mounted a successful comeback in the late ’70s, and continued to tour and record for Concord Jazz up until her death from lung cancer in 2002.