New CD Features Susannah McCorkle's Most Requested Songs
By Doug Levine
26 November 2001
Acclaimed jazz vocalist Susannah McCorkle was 55 years old when she jumped to her death from her New York City apartment last May. Her apparent suicide was linked to an ongoing bout with clinical depression.
McCorkle had a repertoire of more than 3,000 songs. She was a prolific recording artist, lyricist and interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Singer Tony Bennett once called "a wonderful pioneer." Some of her best recordings are now available on a tribute album called Most Requested Songs.
California native Susannah McCorkle arrived on the New York City jazz scene late in life.
As a student living in France studying language and writing short stories, she heard a Billie Holiday record and decided to pursue singing. Susannah's ear for music and gift for speaking foreign languages led to a successful start in clubs in Italy and England.
She released two albums in Europe before returning to the US in the late '70s to record her first songbook, The Songs of Johnny Mercer.
Another hero was composer "Yip" Harburg. McCorkle's version of "If I Only Had A Heart" first appeared on her 1980 tribute to lyricist "Yip" Harburg, best-known for his collaboration with Harold Arlen on the score for "The Wizard Of Oz."
Other albums followed, including the songbooks of Leo Robin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. From Susannah McCorkle's 1998 album Someone To Watch Over Me, The Music Of George Gershwin she sings "They Can't Take That Away From Me," also on her album Most Requested Songs.
McCorkle was one of New York City's finest cabaret singers. She was a fixture at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel and had been booked there for a month-long engagement in October.
Her death on May 19 came before the publication in American Heritage magazine of an article she had authored on actress Mae West. She had also written articles on Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith and Irving Berlin.
Susannah McCorkle's most requested song and one she said she "loved singing every single time," was "The Waters Of March" by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.