Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

Talking about and listening to Doris Day, the singer.
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howard
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Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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From Will Friedwald's recent book release, "The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums" ... an interesting observation:

"Doris Day, traditonally, has on the whole been taken a lot less seriously than singers of comparable stature who happen to have a lot more turbulence in their careers, like Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Judy Garland All three of them sang no shortage of upbeat, cheeful songs, but they all were tragically self-destructive in their personal lives. Somehow, it’s easier to regard a diva as a great artist if she’s always on the verge of doing herself in - paging Amy Winehouse."
Like Irene Dunne done.

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Howard, thanks for this insightful and typically wry observation from Friedwald, especially the last sentence. I had the great pleasure of meeting Michael Hadley, a member of this forum, during his recent trip to Carmel and we briefly mentioned how DD and Judy Garland had similarities in their early years, but handled their careers and later lives so differently.

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Hi all,

Thanks for sharing this Howard. Strangely Doris career seems to be not recognized by so many people within the music/film business. Maybe it's because it looks that Doris didn't have the live of a superstar with all it's
relevant media attention. She did it on her own way, worked hard, didn't look much for press attention, did wat she found out was true to her heart. Well I like her that way...

P

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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We want our divas to suffer. Anyone blessed with the kind of talent that Doris, Barbra and Judy possess must pay one way or another. It’s the great leveler and while we covet each new artistic triumph, secretly, we sort of enjoy it when we realize they’re unhappy or that no one can have it all. Would Judy have been the gay icon she became and slay audiences at the Palace without people knowing what she was going through personally? Would Streisand still command top ticket prices at indoor arenas without her reputation as a controlling perfectionist who has more multi-hyphenates preceding her name than anyone else? These women amass a mystique that eventually supersedes and obscures their innate gifts. We build them up, we buy their records, we go to their movies, and then we commiserate with them when the flaws emerge or we take a little satisfaction in knowing that no one skates through life unscathed.

In Doris’ case, I think it was too easy for the media to characterize her as the bouncy, sunny girl next door who drank milk every morning and never stopped smiling. Her public image became so fixed that it was “uncool” to acknowledge her supreme gifts as a vocalist. Her vocal styling is almost too subtle for many to detect. She never resorted to showboating or unnecessary dramatic effect to prove that she could do it. Her ego was such that she served the lyrics and the melody while seamlessly injecting her delicate phrasing and timing to create a level of intimacy that I don’t anyone can touch. No, she never draped a mike cord over her shoulder or gestured frantically as she paced across a stage the way Judy did. And she never made the band wait until she held a note as long as she could to impress anyone. Not Doris, who managed to nail Secret Love in one take (Can you imagine Streisand riding a bike to the recording session and walking out fifteen minutes later?) and simply (key word) made it look so easy that she never got the credit she so richly deserved.

Judy, thank you for your gracious comment and I return it 100%. It was such a pleasure meeting you in Carmel.

Michael
Michael H

"There's nothing in my bedroom that bothers me."

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Doris's focus has always been different from many others in the entertainment industry. In addition to what Michael has noted, I think another reason that her critics were dismissive was that, although she was hugely industrious, she was not ambitious -- and ambition seems to be more highly valued than industry. In the mid-1960s, she told a reporter, "The CAREER [my emphasis] doesn't mean anything to me, but I enjoy this business very much."

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Thanks for sharing this Howard and for the insightful comments thereafter.

Personally, I do not think Doris was as sunny and "ordinary" as many critics would like to make out- with such talent there must come other traits - and I certainly do not say this as a criticism - in fact any [slightly] negative thing [or what is reported as a negative] about Doris [to me] is a plus and just makes her more human.

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Thanks so much Howard for sharing critic Will Friedwald's observations on Doris' music career and starting such and interesting discussion.

Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Judy Garland are music legends by virtue of their immense talent. Their public suffering and drama were part of their personas and legendary status.

Doris Day's firm discipline as an artist in music and films as well as her strong sense of self helped her commitment to her work. As we know, Doris has had just as much drama and suffering in her life as Billie pr Judy but made different choices to handle it privately. The drama was different but Doris suffered.

It is true the critics did not give Doris the immense credit she deserves by taking her work as seriously as Edith's, Billie's or Judy's. Doris has remained true to her work and herself by focusing on what is important which is doing the work perfectly. Doris' praise of Judy's and Ella Fitzgerald's talent illustrates her generosity of spirit. She appeared to demand more of herself than comparing herself to other artists.

Doris Day is a music and film legend. Her work has brought endless joy to countless fans over decades. It will stand the test of time. Perhaps one day critics will evaluate her work objectively and give her the same love and respect as her fans and the members of the Doris Day Forum.
Johnny

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Will Friedwald's book called The Great Jazz & Pop Vocal Albums is an in-depth critique of nearly 5 dozen albums recorded between 1948 and 2002. The work of Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra is represented by 2 albums apiece, as is the work of Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan. The only vocal-ists whose work is represented by 3 albums apiece are Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, and Doris.

In his chapter about the albums Day by Day and Day by Night, Friedwald writes, “[Day] would be the only female equivalent of Sinatra and Bing Crosby in following their trajectory out of the dance bands and into the upper heights of solo stardom, a career achievement that Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and many other former band chirps surely envied.” In addition to every track on those 2 albums, he discusses all those on Annie Get Your Gun. Here are extracts from his comments about various songs:

“I Remember You” – You might think that someone forgot to remember to include the verse, but she doesn’t need it; the chorus is a perfect entity in itself in Day’s interpretation.

“But Beautiful” – Day is especially relaxed and sensual.

“Close Your Eyes” – [This song] is one of the shining highlights of what we call the Great American Songbook. No other interpreter ever made it as clear as Day does.

“Under a Blanket of Blue” – Day’s voice may not be as big or overwhelming as Judy Garland’s or Sarah Vaughan’s, but she can easily envelop you like a blanket, not merely with her chops but with her entire personality.

“Stars Fell on Alabama” – Day sings it so rapturously that . . . I have no trouble imagining her floating through the sky, one heavenly body amidst others.

Re: the Annie Get Your Gun album – “While [Robert] Goulet . . . more than holds up his share of the musical load, it’s Day’s treatment of the Annie songs that makes the album sparkle.”

“You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” – Day’s version is hysterical. She snaps out Berlin’s witty rhymes with the same tempo as Annie Oakley shooting at clay pigeons.

“I Got Lost in His Arms” – [It’s] an instant Day classic, sheer heaven. Day’s voice is positively radiant. There’s only one verse and one chorus, but that’s all that Day needs to make the most amazing magic.

Here is one of Friedwald’s typical wry comments, this from his discussion of Day by Night: “There were 2 dates [Aug. 23 and 30, 1957] with strings, rather than one, doubtless to the annoyance of Marty Melcher, who would have gladly recorded Day with a harmonica and banjo if he thought it would save a buck.”

And finally: “On all the occasions I’ve spoken with her, she never acknowledged these or any of her other recordings as anything particularly noteworthy. She refuses to be impressed by anything in her own catalogue.”

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Hi Judy,

This is an amazing piece. Thank you so much for bringing Will Friedwalls notes to Doris on the forum. This is great. What a thrill to read.

Have a great Easter weekend.
Peter

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Hi, Peter -- Glad you enjoyed reading these Friedwald excerpts. In my view, he's a really astute music historian and I love the humor he interjects into his reviews.

Happy Easter weekend to you and the other Forum members, too.

Judy

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Here's a chuckle -- another gem from Friedwald, this about Bing Crosby's recording of "Tell Me Why," which Doris sang in "On Moonlight Bay": Bing tried to "out-poignant" her rendition.

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

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Thank you Musiclover for the gem about Bing Crosby.

I have always loved Doris' speaking voice as well her incomparable singing voice. I found some unexpected information when I looked on the internet. Here is one:

"Doris had a wonderful jazz vibrato voice and could have been one of the top jazz singers,"said Frankie Laine.

An article from The Hindu music reporter
Narendra Kusnur, titled, "The Freshness and Vitality of Doris Day's Voice"

"In many ways, she was the female Frank Sinatra. She recorded over 650 songs from 1947- 1967, traversing genres like jazz, easy listening, Hollywood musicals, and boss nova.
Day's voice was rich and clear. It could be as natural as sunshine, as tender as moonlight, as pleasant as spring rain. She didn't use a falsetto
or make any effort to scat like her idol Ella Fitzgerald. Her back-up often included a strong brass section, gentle piano and vibrant chorus lines, giving them an old world charm."

I found this description of her singing voice one of the most eloquent and insightful statements I have encountered.
Johnny

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

Unread post by sihmonSELV »

Musiclover wrote:
05 May 2020, 14:36
Here's a chuckle -- another gem from Friedwald, this about Bing Crosby's recording of "Tell Me Why," which Doris sang in "On Moonlight Bay": Bing tried to "out-poignant" her rendition.
A fascinating piece of information! I'm no expert of the recordings of Bing Crosby, so I had no idea that he had recorded this song. But indeed he has - although, thinking of the context in the film "On Moonlight Bay" where Doris sings it, Bing has a much more easy going approach, so it's quite a different matter.

Bing's recording features on the album "Bing with a Beat" from 1957, and can also be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsoRsQYNaQ4!

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Re: Music critic Will Friedwald on Doris Day.

Unread post by Musiclover »

Johnny, thanks for the quote from Narendra Kusnur. I like the similes he used to describe Doris's voice.

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