The voice of American youth and vigor is soon to turn 70. Joanie Sommers, who encouraged millions of teenaged baby boomers to “come alive” and take their rightful place within the “Pepsi generation” back in the early 1960s, will enter her eight decade next February. So, it seems high time that Sommers get her due, and for far more than shilling soda.
Back in the day, Sommers had everything going for her: a terrific voice (if you’ve never heard Sommers sing, she sounds uncannily similar to Stacey Kent), a major label (the freshly-minted Warner Brothers Records) backing her, strong TV promotion with guest spots on all the popular variety shows, bookings at topflight night clubs stretching from New York to Vegas and, of course, near-ubiquitous exposure thanks to Pepsi. In the studio, such fine players and arrangers as Neil Hefti, Marty Paich, Shelly Manne, Buddy Collette, Russ Freeman, Bobby Troup, Conte Candoli, Al Caiola, Bucky Pizzarelli and Laurindo Almeida supported her.
So, with so many oars simultaneously pulling in the right direction, why didn’t Sommers star rise higher? Three reasons: She was the victim of bad timing and murky marketing, and fell prey to the ironic curse of a single, iconic hit.