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Jo Stafford

(11/12/1917 – 7/16/2008)

Jo Stafford

What’s cool? Who’s cool? How do you get cool? Jo Stafford was a cool singer. She was of the cool school … cool was and is an aesthetic that embodies reserve. Whether that reserve comes from poise or rebellion, you just don’t give everything you’ve got. No blistering tempos, no complex bebop changes and no frantic scat singing. Jo sang with an ease and directness that reflected the confidence of the country. They called her “G.I. Jo” during WWII.

Being called Jo when you’re a woman is cool. In America, during the 1940s, swing and jazz were the popular musics of the day. That’s incredibly cool. Americans were cool. Jo, an accomplished musician and pianist as well, sang with a rich timbre and dead-on pitch. She hung slightly back of the beat in that swinging way, the way we walked down the street then, open faces and loose gestures, as if we had nothing to lose. We sang and danced our way through the middle of the 20th century and we won the war. The soldiers loved Jo and we loved her. She sold 25 million records. That’s cool.

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