Dory Previn Biography

b Dorothy Veronica Langan, 22 October 1929, Rahway, New Jersey, USA (although dates between 1925 and 1937 have also been claimed). The daughter of a musician, Dorothy Langan became a child singer and dancer in New Jersey, graduating to musical theatre as a chorus line member. During her teens she had also briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her abilities as a songwriter next brought Langdon work composing music for television programmes. After moving to Hollywood, she met and married composer André Previn in November 1959, the year in which he wrote the tune ‘No Words For Dory’ (she had previously recorded an album of her songs with Previn and guitarist Kenny Burrell under the name Dory Langdon).

Now a lyricist for movie soundtracks, Dory Previn worked with André, Elmer Bernstein and others on songs for movies such as Pepe (including the Academy Award nominated ‘The Faraway Part Of Town’), Two For The Seesaw (including the Academy Award nominated ‘A Second Chance’), and Valley Of The Dolls, whose theme tune was a big hit for Dionne Warwick in 1967. The Previns also placed songs with popular recording artists such as Jack Jones, Doris Day and Tony Bennett, but in 1965 Dory suffered a nervous breakdown. She recovered and continued to work with her husband, but by the late 60s André was concentrating on his burgeoning career as a international conductor. His affair with actress Mia Farrow led to the breakdown of his marriage with Dory, and after separating in 1969 the couple were legally divorced the following year.

In the late 60s Dory had turned to more personal lyrics, earning a third Oscar nomination for ‘Come Saturday Morning’ (from The Sterile Cuckoo) and publishing a book of poems. She signed a recording contract with the Mediarts label and released a belated successor to her 1957 debut. The follow-up Mythical Kings And Iguanas (1971) was even more successful and is widely revered as a classic of the early 70s singer-songwriter genre. Produced by Nik Venet, her early albums were noted for angry, intimate and often despairing material like ‘The Lady With The Braid’ and ‘Who Will Follow Norma Jean?’. The title track of 1972’s Mary C. Brown And The Hollywood Sign was based on a true story of a suicide attempt and was turned by Previn into a stage musical that ran briefly in Los Angeles. Another of her screenplays, The Third Girl From The Left, was made into a television movie by ABC and broadcast on 10 March 1973.

In 1974, Previn left United Artists Records (Mediarts’ new owners) for Warner Brothers Records. Although never less than interesting, her work for the label lacked the passionate lyricism of her earlier albums. In 1976, she published the first volume of her memoirs, Midnight Baby (a second volume followed in 1980). By the late 70s Previn had begun to concentrate on stage and television work, often using the name Dory Previn Shannon. She won an Emmy Award in 1984 for ‘We’ll Win This World’ (from Two Of A Kind). Previn also published several short stories, but a series of strokes in the 90s affected her output. She continued to write, however, and in 2002 released an Internet-only collection of songs, her first recordings since the late 70s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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