Susannah McCorkle Biography

1 January 1946, Berkeley, California, USA, d. 19 May 2001, New York City, New York, USA. In the late 60s, McCorkle lived for a while in Paris, France. It was during this sojourn that she heard Billie Holiday on records and decided to take up singing. Multilingual, she lived for a time in Italy, working as a translator and taking any singing jobs she could find. In 1972, she moved to the UK, singing in clubs and pubs and learning about what she had determined would be her future career. She also made two albums that, although well received, enjoyed only limited circulation. In the late 70s, McCorkle returned to the USA and settled in New York, where a five-month engagement at the Cookery in Greenwich Village brought her to wider public attention and elicited rave reviews from critics. She continued to record during the 80s, and her maturing style and the darkening timbre of her voice greatly enhanced her performances. By the early 90s, with the release by Concord Records of No More Blues and Sabia, two enormously successful albums, McCorkle made her name known to the wider world. Her linguistic skills enabled her to translate lyrics, notably the Brazilian songs on Sabia, and made her a likely candidate for international success. She consolidated her status in jazz with awards, including the 1989 New York Music Award, and was recorded by the Smithsonian Institute, that at the time made her the youngest singer ever to have be included in their popular music series. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, McCorkle also had several short stories published and, in 1991, worked on her first novel.

Throughout the rest of the 90s and at the beginning of the following century she produced a crop of credible albums for Concord Jazz. Her albums of the late 90s marked her progress as a gifted jazz singer and as an outstanding and imaginative interpreter of the Great American Song Book. Sadly, however, the brilliance of her work concealed the fact that McCorkle suffered from clinical depression. While her career was still at its height, she chose to end her own life. Discussing her attitude towards her work and her audiences, she once said: ‘I want to reach people and stir their emotions, make them think of the poetry in their own lives.’ It is bitterly ironic that she was unable to find in her own life the poetry she brought to others.

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

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