It was the sort of hot humid day that most people hate but I perversely love. Driving to a pool at the base of a waterfall where floating I could feel like an ice cube in a highball, I listened to Bill Shedden's weekly "Classic Sinatra" program on WCNY (90.3 FM) in Syracuse. Labor Day will mark four full years of this weekly one-hour program, one of several shows that demonstrate the superiority of a public radio station that designs its own programing rather than buying the national feed (e.g. "Performance Today"). Shedden started this evening with Sinatra's late Capitol period (Porter's "You Do Something to Me" and Rodgers & Hart's "Lover"). Later he played a little-heard rendition of Berlin's "It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow" from 1940.
More songs from the Tommy Dorsey period were coming, because Jo Stafford -- who was one of the Pied Pipers accompanying Sinatra in the Dorsey band before her own highly successful career as a solo vocalist -- died at age 90 last Sunday. Congestive heart failure.
Jo Stafford -- "GI Jo," to ardent soldiers during World War II -- had as fine and as pure a voice as any Big Band "girl singer" or cabaret chanteuse in a period rife with great examples of both. Her interpretations were not unusual or offbeal but she had great pipes and sang with a sweetness that combined the essence of sincerity with the intimacy of a slow-dance. She sang with great clarity and had magnificent range. Her versions of "Too Marvelous for Words" and "Embraceable You" are definitive. I also recommend her versions of "Manhattan Serenade," "Yes, Indeed," and "The Things We Did Last Summer," all from the late 1940s. She is audible in "I'll Never Smile Again," "Let's Get Away from it All," and "O! Look at Me Now," which Dorsey arranged in 1940 and '41 when Sinatra was the boy singer and Connie Haines the girl singer in his band.
I once wrote a poem beginning "When I fall in love, I want Jo Stafford's voice in my ear."