Singer Rosemary Clooney died Sat., June 29 at her home in Beverly Hills from complications related to lung cancer. She was 74.
Born in Maysville, Kentucky in 1928, Clooney began her career by entering amateur events with her sister Betty. After winning a competition that earned them radio time seven nights a week in Cincinnati, the sisters began singing with big bands, first with Barney Rapp and then with the big band of Tony Pastor. Clooney’s first solo recording came in 1946, with “I’m Sorry I Didn’t Say Sorry When I Made You Cry Last Night,” which led to her signing a contract with Columbia in 1948.
Several of Clooney’s records were hits for Columbia during the ’50s, beginning with “Come On-A My House,” a song that Clooney was persuaded to sing by her publicist, Mitch Miller. Among her other hits were “Mambo Italiano,” “Beautiful Brown Eyes,” and “This Ole House.” After marrying actor Jose Ferrer in 1953, Clooney appeared in several films, including The Stars are Singing, White Christmas with Bing Crosby, and Here Come the Girls.
After leaving Columbia, Clooney signed with RCA and made recordings with Coral, Reprise and Capitol before her estrangement with Ferrer in the late ’60s. After her divorce from Ferrer in 1967, her life and career went into somewhat of a tailspin, which included an addiction to sleeping pills, the death of her friend Senator Robert Kennedy, the deterioration of her work habits, and ultimately a month in the psychiatric ward at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
After working small jobs to get by in the early ’70s, a reunion tour with Bing Crosby brought her back into the spotlight in 1974, and throughout the ’80s and ’90s she performed often and recorded several albums of standard American songbook repertoire for Concord Jazz. While Clooney became famous on the success of tunes that were considered to be novelties and did not improvise in the manner of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, her simple and honest approach became her trademark and made her one of the most popular jazz vocalists from the 1950s to the present.
She is survived by her children, Miguel, Maria, Gabriel, Monsita Teresa and Rafael, her husband, Dante DiPaolo, and her nephew George Clooney.Originally Published