Shirley Horn Day

May 1, 1934 – October 20, 2005

Here’s To Life

Shirley Horn sings “Here’s To Life” in 1993 with “The Boston Pops” conducted by John Williams.

Pianist and singer Shirley Valerie Horn was born May 1, 1934, in Washington, DC.

Her piano lessons started at four and she was offered a slot at the Juilliard School, but her family could not afford the tuition.

She formed her first trio when she was twenty. One night an audience member asked her to sing “Melancholy Baby.”

She did and never stopped.

In 1960, her debut recording, “Embers and Ashes”, caught the ear of Miles Davis, who insisted she open for him at the Village Vanguard. Known as his “favorite singer,” they were lifelong friends.

Among her early influences on piano where Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson and began performing on the famous U Street area of Washington D.C.

Shirley first found fame when she was discovered by Miles Davis in 1960 and proceeded to recorded for small labels followed by contracts with Mercury and Impulse Records with little commercial success.

Although praised by jazz critics her marriage in the late ’60s stifled her career by limiting he musical activities to the D.C. area.

Preferring to work with a small group Shirley kept the same rhythm section comprised of bassist Charles Ables, and drummer Steve Williams for twenty-five years becoming an indispensable element to her sound.

The title song from her 1992 album “Here’s To Life” arranged by Johnny Mandel, with lyrics by Phyllis Molinary and music by Artie Butler, became her signature.