Susannah McCorkle Day

January 1, 1949 – May 19, 2001


A tribute to the wonderful jazz singer

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Susannah McCorkle was born January 1, 1949 in Berkeley, California.

Originally McCorkle planned to become a translator, possibly for the Common market in Brussels, since she was expert in several languages.

While in Italy in the late 1960s, she fell in love with Billie Holiday’s music and discovered early jazz including such singers as Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters; she spontaneously decided to become a jazz singer herself.

After moving to England in 1971, McCorkle worked with pianist Keith Ingham and had opportunities to perform with trumpeter Dick Sudhalter and cornetist Bobby Hackett, making her first recordings in 1976, starting with tribute albums of the music of Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.

A decade before the retro-swing movement and years before Linda Ronstadt discovered the Great American Songbook, Susannah McCorkle was one of the first of the singers in the 1970s to begin exploring standards of decades earlier.

She was a world class singer with a beautiful voice, bringing out the hidden meanings in even the most familiar lyrics, even drastically slowing down “There’s No Business Like Show Business” to make it into a particularly touching rendition.

McCorkle moved back to the United States in 1980 and was a popular attraction for years, recording regularly for Concord by 1988 and building her repertoire up to 3,000 songs ranging from swing to West Coast-style cool jazz of the 1950s.

Tragically, Susannah McCorkle suffered from severe depression and, as the pressure and disappointments built up in 2001 (being dropped by Concord, not being booked for her yearly engagement at the Algonquin Hotel, growing older, and feeling that life was becoming useless), she chose to commit suicide at the age of 52, not realizing how much she was loved and admired.

There is very little film of Susannah McCorkle and it does not do her justice so here is her recording of “Easy To Love,” featuring the singer in her prime.

-Scott Yanow


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