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Margaret Whiting: A Musical Appreciation

Remembering the late Big Band Era and Great American Songbook singer

Margaret Whiting
Johnny Mercer & Margaret Whiting

A dozen years ago, I remember being surprised that the passing of Mel Tormé caused barely a ripple. His departure was newsworthy for a day or two, and there were the requisite obits in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other noble outlets that still appreciated such seminal, if faded, figures; yet the outpouring seemed pitifully inadequate for one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time.

But the attention paid to the death of Margaret Whiting, three weeks ago at age 86, made the Tormé trickle seem like a torrent. Granted, Whiting was never as pivotal or prolific a performer as Tormé. Even among the coterie of white songbirds who emerged from the ashes of the big band era as solo stars – Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Kay Starr and Dinah Shore – Whiting was the least popular and the least distinctive.

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