Anita Belle Colton O'Day
October 18, 1919 - November 23, 2006
We are very pleased and proud to announce the
Here is a fun mention from the LA WEEKLY Brick's Picks: "Playboy Jazz on Film presents the exceptional documentary 'Anita O'Day - The Life of a Jazz Singer'...A masterpiece of the medium, the documentary relates her extroadinary life story as a musician with no softened edges and plenty of extended musical passages."
Miami Music Film Festival
Newport Jazz Fesival
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
If you would like to sign this beautiful guest book and read some thoughts about Anita click here for The Legacy Guest Book
"Oh, how we'll miss you tonight, miss you when the lights are low. Oh, how we need you tonight, more than you'll ever know. You did your best on the floor, now you are not here anymore. Though are poor hearts are aching and our hearts are breaking. Old Pal, How we miss you tonight."
– the official walkathon elimination song
Anita O'Day, the last surviving member of the pantheon of great jazz singers (whose ranks also include Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan), passed away Thanksgiving morning at the age of 87. Born in Chicago, O'Day gained national attention as the girl singer with drummer Gene Krupa's orchestra on the hit record "Let Me Off Uptown." After two tenures with Krupa and one, inbetween, with Stan Kenton and his Orchestra, O'Day became a solo star and, along with Fitzgerald and Vaughan, a founding fore-mother ofmodern jazz vocals. Known for her inventive scatting as well as her touching balladeering, O'Day recorded several dozen classic albums, mostly for the Verve label in the 1950s. Ms. O'Day was often as flamboyant visually as she was innovative vocally, evidence of which can be found in the films "The Gene Krupa Story" and "Jazz On A Summer's Day. A survivor of both heroin and alcohol addiction, she was also the author of one of the great jazz memoirs, "Hard Times, High Times" and the subject of a full-length documentary film, 'Anita O'Day - The Life of A Jazz Singer' which is currently in the final stages of completion.
---Will Friedwald November 23, 2006
Substance, not style, set her apart Anita O'Day could be elegant, but her fortitude was what made her great.
---By Don Heckman Special to The Times (LA) November 25, 2006
Anita O'Day, who died Thursday at 87, was never just another big-band canary. That's not to say that she lacked the physical attributes to compete with the other Swing era vocalists — frilly eye candy occasionally taking the microphone to offer jaunty riffs on the latest pop tunes — who sat on stage with the Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Harry James ensembles.
There's a photo of O'Day on the cover of her autobiography, "High Times, Hard Times," in which she is perched, nylon-clad legs crossed, on top of a piano in a pose that could have been an inspiration for Michelle Pfeiffer's sexy lounge singer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys." The elegance was always a veneer covering an inner toughness, the hard life lessons learned that made her a superb jazz singer, one of the best of her generation — or of any generation. At a time when most female vocalists tended to emphasize the sweet timbres of their voice, she chose to follow a path blazed by the one major jazz singer who emphasized message over medium — Billie Holiday.
Like Holiday, O'Day combined the soaring freedom of a jazz instrumentalist with the storytelling lyricism of a poet. She often said she was a "stylist," not a "singer," which was correct, but only in a minimal sense.
From the moment she broke through to a national audience via the briskly swinging encounter with trumpeter Roy Eldridge in the Gene Krupa Band's recording of "Let Me Off Uptown" to her splendid Verve recordings of the '50s, and her comebacks in the '70s and again in the '90s, she was instantly recognizable, an utter original. Yes, "stylist," but much more. Like Frank Sinatra, she balanced the rhythmic songs that were generally considered to be her forte with an approach to ballads that varied from seductive intimacy to sardonic irony.
When I wrote about her in 1990, she was as feisty as ever, personally — discussing another hard-luck encounter with the vagaries of the record business — and still singing with the killer phrasing that made every song an adventure. Eight years later, I reviewed her again, this time after she had made an astonishing return to singing after a near-fatal encounter with pneumonia and blood poisoning. And again she was remarkable, as she was in her final performances before her death — to the very end, never just another big-band canary.
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UPDATED June 28, 2007
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