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Margaret Whiting: An Appreciation


Mar 9, 2006
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Margaret Whiting, an immensely popular singer during the '40s and '50s and a less popular but still stellar cabaret singer until her death, passed away recently. I actually did not know who she was until I saw her obit in the NYT. But over the past few days a surprisingly large number of appreciations have appeared. After reading them, it becomes pretty clear that she was one of the semi-forgotten jewels of American song. Whiting became one of Johnny Mercer's go-to singers. She introduced many of his songs that are now hallmarks of the "American Songbook" (I hate that phrase). She had a virtuoso's touch when it came to phrasing and diction. Just sheer brilliance. In the New Republic, an appreciation written by David Hajdu contains a video of a beautiful "It Might as Well Be Spring" rendition from Whiting's heyday. http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-famous-d...g-image-vs-art Her father was a composer (he wrote "On the Good Ship Lollipop", among other songs) and in this NPR appreciation, a Fresh Air interview from the 80s is featured. Whiting said:
"My girlfriend was Harry Warren's daughter, and what she had I had," Whiting said. "One day at my house, I might have Jerome Kern, who I called Uncle Jerry. Or I might have Benny Goodman, who my father did a picture for. Or, at Harry Warren's, we might have had Jimmy Dorsey or Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller. We might have had young Frank Sinatra or Jack Lemmon. So I thought everybody had the same kind of bringing up."
http://www.npr.org/2011/01/13/132866...e-of-standards Needless to say, there are few people in history who can make a statement like this. Her NYT obit was fabulous. I laughed out loud when I read that she married Jack Wrangler, the famous '70s gay porn star. This is just some funny shit:
In her later years, Ms. Whiting was known to many as the unlikely wife of Jack Wrangler (originally John Stillman), a star of gay pornographic films in the 1970s who went on to become a cabaret and theater producer. Ms. Whiting and Mr. Wrangler, 22 years her junior, met in the 1970s, lived together for many years and married in 1994. She wrote about their relationship in an autobiography, "It Might as Well Be Spring," saying it was based on similar interests and mutual respect, not sex. When they first became involved, he told her, "I'm gay," to which she replied, "Only around the edges, dear."
Another NYT piece, an appreciation by Stephen Holden, argues persuasively that her recording of the Jerome Kern songbook is the definitive one. Better than Ella Fitzgerald's, you'll ask? I listened to a few songs off of Whiting's album and yes, it is outstanding. Better than Ella! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/13/ar...argaretwhiting RIP Margaret, a great interpreter of great music.

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