Anita O'Day - Post War, Memoir and Later Life, References

Article Index

Post-war work and drug busts

During the late 1940s, she recorded two dozen sides, mostly for small labels. The quality of these singles varies: O'Day was trying to achieve popular success without sacrificing her identity as a jazz singer. Among the more notable recordings from this period are "Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip", "Key Largo", "How High the Moon", and "Malaguena". While living with husband Carl Hoff in Los Angeles and in March 1947, two undercover policemen came to their home during a party at which Dizzy Gillespie was playing from the branches of a tree in their front yard. They found a small bag of weed, for which Anita and Carl were arrested. On August 11 Judge Harold B. Landreth found them guilty and handed down ninety-day sentences.

After her jail stint, O'Day performed with Woody Herman's Herd and the Stan Kenton Artistry In Rhythm Orchestra. Her career was back on the upswing in September 1948 when she sang with Count Basie at the Royal Roost in New York City, resulting in five airchecks. What secured O'Day's place in the jazz pantheon, however, were the 17 albums she recorded for Norman Granz's Norgran and Verve labels between 1952 and 1962.

Her first album Anita O'Day Sings Jazz (reissued as The Lady Is a Tramp) was recorded in 1952 for the newly established Norgran Records (it was also the label's first LP). The album was a critical success and further boosted her popularity. In February 1953, O'Day was in court again for a marijuana charge, this time for smoking a joint while riding in a car. The case was dismissed by a jury for lack of evidence, but while awaiting her trial O'Day was introduced to sniffing heroin by a character named Harry the Hipster. She'd switched to booze instead of pot after her second bust, and her first thought on feeling the heroin rush was, "Oh good, now I don't have to drink." Within a month, she was framed for a heroin bust and facing six years. Soon after her release from jail on February 25, 1954, she began work on her second album, Songs by Anita O'Day (reissued as An Evening with Anita O'Day). She recorded steadily throughout the 1950s, accompanied by small combos and big bands. In person, O'Day was generally backed by a trio which included John Poole, the drummer with whom she would work for the next 40 years.[4]

As a live performer O'Day also began performing in festivals and concerts with such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, Cal Tjader and Thelonious Monk. She appeared in the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day, filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which increased her popularity. She admitted later that she was probably high on heroin during the concert.[5] She also said that it was the best day of her life in that hers was the star performance of the festival and she made the cover of national magazines for it.

The following year, O'Day made a cameo appearance in The Gene Krupa Story, singing "Memories of You". Late in 1959, she toured Europe with Benny Goodman to great personal acclaim. O'Day wrote in her 1981 autobiography that when Goodman's attempts to upstage her failed to diminish the audience's enthusiasm, he cut all but two of her numbers from the show.

O'Day went back to touring as a solo artist and appeared on such TV specials as the Timex All-Star Jazz Show and The Swingin' Years hosted by Ronald Reagan. She recorded infrequently after the expiration of her Verve contract in 1962 and her career seemed over when she nearly died of a heroin overdose in 1968. After kicking the habit, she made a comeback at the 1970 Berlin Jazz Festival. She also appeared in the films Zigzag a.k.a. False Witness with George Kennedy (1970) and The Outfit (1974) with Robert Duvall. She resumed making live and studio albums under the new management of Alan Eichler, many recorded in Japan, and several were released on Emily Records, owned by Anita O'Day and John Poole. Since then, Emily Records has changed its name to Emily Productions, now owned by Elaine Poole, and they are currently restoring Anita's live and studio archives from the Emily years.[6]

Memoir and later life

In November 1980 she was a headliner along with Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and Ramsey Lewis during the opening two-week ceremony performances celebrating the short-lived resurgence of the Blue Note Lounge at the Marriott O'Hare Hotel near Chicago.

O'Day spoke candidly about her drug addiction in her 1981 memoir High Times, Hard Times, which led to a string of TV appearances on 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, The Dick Cavett Show, Over Easy with Hugh Downs, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, and several others. She toured Europe, and also performed a 50th Anniversary Concert (1985) at Carnegie Hall which resulted in the (2010) release of Anita O'Day – Big Band at Carnegie Hall (Emily Productions). O'Day also headlined New York's JVC Jazz Festival.

In 2005, her version of the standard "Sing, Sing, Sing" was remixed by RSL and was included in the compilation album Verve Remixed 3. The following year, she released Indestructible!, her first album in 13 years.

One of her best-known late-career audio performances is "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby", which opens the film Shortbus (2006) by John Cameron Mitchell.

A feature-length documentary, Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2007.[5][7]

In November 2006, Robbie Cavolina (her last manager) entered her into a West Hollywood convalescent hospital, while she recovered from pneumonia. Two days before her death, she had demanded to be released from the hospital. On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, at age 87, O'Day died in her sleep. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest.

References

  1. O'Day, Anita; Eells, George (1981). High Times Hard Times. Putnam. p. 34. ISBN 978-0879101183.

  2. "Anita O'Day Live at the Newport Jazz Festival (1958)" on YouTube

  3. Davis, Francis (26 October 1989). "A Mellow Time For Jazz Singer Anita O'day". The Philadelphia Inquirer.

  4. "Jazz drummer Poole dies at 73". Las Vegas Sun. 14 April 1999.

  5. Als, Hilton (11 August 2008). "Voice of Choice". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X.

  6. Jonathan Poole, John's son

  7. "Anita O'Day: Indestructable" on YouTube

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_O'Day

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/