Monday, February 9, 2009

Bye-bye Blossom

Her name is Blossom. She was raised in a lion's den. Her nightly occupation was stealing other women's men.

At least that's how singer, songwriter and pianist Blossom Dearie told it in "Blossom's Blues" from her self-titled Verve debut in 1956.

The lyric is standard-issue blues bragging, but when it comes from Dearie's chalk-soft voice it takes on a comic appeal. Does this woman who squeaks and toots like an alto saxophone in the upper register really mean that? Is she even capable of leading a good man astray?

What comes next in "Blossom's Blues" provides the answer, and quite efficiently at that: "I'm an evil woman / But I want to do a man some good."

That same bad girl in school-librarian's clothing fuels her hilarious delivery of Rodgers & Hart's "Ev'rything I've Got" from the same album. In it, she details all the reprehensible things about her personality and the even worse tricks she's learning (fisticuffs, knife-play, a mouth to make a sailor blush -- even witchcraft is mentioned). It's, as the title says, all she has and she's willing to share them with the right fellow.

Her girlish tone is not the babydoll come-on of a Marilyn Monroe, but a flower-soft and unassuming sound that can just as effectively deliver the sad torch songs and genuine romantic odes from the American songbook. Blossom Dearie could sell it.

That she sang a few of her friend and frequent collaborator Bob Dorough's spiffy songs for ABC television's "School House Rock" series makes perfect sense. What kid wouldn't respond to Dearie's gentle voice?

Here she gives the number 8 all the gravitas it deserves:

[Courtesy babiekitty1978]

Dearie never reached the mainstream, which is just as well. The rest of us can keep her like a secret. She died on Feb 7, 2009 at the age of 84. The New York Times has a fine obituary where you can learn more about her, if you don't already know her and her work.