Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sometimes you made me glad

Helen with Dick Haymes

In the famous company of such a melée of birthday celebrants today, including Miss Ann Miller, David Cassidy, Herbie Hancock, Alan Ayckbourn, Tiny Tim, Jane Withers, Lily Pons, Andy Garcia, the lovely Paul Nicholls and uber-diva Montserrat Caballé, it is easy to overlook another favourite of ours here at Dolores Delargo Towers - Miss Helen Forrest, who would have been 99 years old.

Hers was an estimable career, possibly equivalent today to the (far less talented) likes of Rihanna or Sia; at her peak, her voice was everywhere. During the "Swing Era" of WW2 she was the lead singer with not one, not two, but three of the biggest Big Bands in the world - those of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James.

And here she is, first with Artie:

...with Benny:

...and with Harry:

  • Born into a Jewish family, her upbringing was tormented: her father died young and her mother transferred her grief into blame upon her daughter; later, with her second husband, mother ran a brothel and stepfather tried to molest Helen; so she left home.
  • Her big break was when she replaced Billie Holiday in Artie Shaw's band - and out of deference to the heinous "colour bar" that denied black artists a place on stage until they actually performed, she too stayed off-stage until it was her time to sing.
  • In 1942 and 1943, she was voted the best female vocalist in the United States by Down Beat magazine.
  • Helen was in a relationship with Harry James while she was part of his band, and referred to him later as "the love of her life".
  • She kept on singing until she was in her 70s, only retiring due to hearing loss and vocal chords weakened by rheumatoid arthritis.
Helen Forrest (born Helen Fogel, 12th April 1917 – 11th July 1999)

No comments:

Post a comment

Please leave a message - I value your comments!