Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


McCORKLE, Susannah

(b 1 January 1946, Berkeley CA; d 19 May 2001, NYC) Jazz singer with a repertoire of 2,500 songs. She grew up on Joan Baez, the Supremes and acid rock; graduated from the U. of California at Berkeley fluent in Italian and worked in Europe as interpreter/translator of Italian, German, Spanish and French; in Paris in the early 1970s she heard and was awestruck by Billie Holiday records, and knew that she wanted to sing. She worked in Italy as an interpreter but started singing on the side; moved to London '73 and sang (with sextet Jazz Without Walls, led by Dick Sudhalter) in pubs and small clubs, then bigger venues, eventually Ronnie Scott's. She also worked with Digby Fairweather and pianist Keith Ingham, was married to Ingham for a while (they worked together until '83). While living in England she toured with Bobby Hackett, and appeared in concert with Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon in Denmark; moved to NYC in 1978 and played long engagements in the Rainbow Room and the Algonquin Hotel. She also wrote short fiction, published in Mademoiselle, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan and The O. Henry Book Of Prize Short Stories. Her albums began with The Songs Of Harry Warren '76, The Songs Of Johnny Mercer '77 (later on Jazz Alliance CD), Over The Rainbow '80 (a Yip Harburg songbook) and The People That You Never Get To Love '81, all on Inner City; then Thanks For The Memory '83-4 (a Leo Robin songbook) and How Do You Keep The Music Playing? '85, both on Pausa.

Next came As Time Goes By '86 on CBS/Sony, in a series of ten discs by vocalists for the Japanese market; she didn't particularly like it, as the producers didn't allow her to choose her own songs or sidemen. (There was a certain lack of sparkle in the whole series, and some of the other vocalists were said to be dissatisfied; they were Sheila Jordan, Carol Sloane, Lorez Alexandria, Shirley Horn, Bobbe Norris, Morgana King, Vivian Lord, Millie Vernon and Carmen Lundy.) McCorkle's sidemen on As Time Goes By included Billy Taylor, Ted Dunbar, Jimmy Heath, Victor Gaskin and Tony Reedus; the fault was not theirs but the record company shoving people together like so many beans, though critic Francis Davis thought that McCorkle herself sounded wonderful, especially on 'September In The Rain', on which 'she lags indolently behind the beat, in no hurry to catch up'.

This was followed by Dream '86 on Pausa, then No More Blues '88, her debut on Concord, a label that knew how to put people together, with Dave Frishberg on piano and guitarist Emily Remler on four tracks (Remler's last recording session). Sambia '90 had bossa nova tunes in Portuguese, English and Italian; McCorkle wrote translations for half the songs and got permission from Jobim to use her lyrics on some of his. I'll Take Romance '91 included Frank Wess, Howard Alden and Keith Copeland; From Bessie To Brazil '93 included Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy', with Alden, Ken Peplowski and others; followed by From Broadway To Bebop '94, Easy To Love '95 (a Cole Porter songbook), Let's Face The Music '96 (Irving Berlin). Losing a life-long battle with depression, she jumped to her death from her apartment.