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Girl Singer: An Autobiography by Rosemary Clooney (with Joan Barthel)

In 1977, Rosemary Clooney published her first autobiography, This for Remembrance, recounting her youthful ascent from poverty to stardom, followed by a troubled marriage, depression, drug addiction and mental collapse, and upliftingly capped by a successful recovery supported by family, friends and faith. A made-for-television movie adaptation of the singer’s harrowing memoir aired in 1982, featuring actress Sondra Locke lip-synching to Clooney’s vocals. In Girl Singer, Clooney and collaborator Joan Barthel, the author of several nonfiction crime books, recycle and update this to-hell-and-back show-biz saga. Unless you’re a diehard Clooney fan, you’ll probably share my feeling that she’s taken her tragedy and redemption to market once too often.

The warmth and candor that distinguish Clooney’s live performances come through in her book, especially her devotion to her late sister Betty, second husband, dancer-actor Dante DiPaolo, and five children. Girl Singer is stuffed with anecdotes about celebrity friends (Crosby, Sinatra, Dietrich, Bogart) but offers disappointingly few insights into Clooney’s art and little to interest jazz-oriented readers. (Early on, she admits, “I have very little in the way of improvisational skill, because I don’t read music-I don’t know what the chord structure is-and I don’t have the ear for it. I’d call myself a sweet singer with a big band sensibility.”) She briefly discusses Blue Rose, her classic 1956 album with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, in the most superficial terms, and her five-page recollection of Billie Holiday, the godmother of her daughter Maria, consists of information familiar even to casual Lady Day devotees. Far more attention is paid to the men in Clooney’s professional and personal life, and whether or not she went to bed with them.

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