Buried on the back page of today’s Washington Post is an obituary for one of jazz’s truly unique voices: singer, songwriter and sophisticate Blossom Dearie, who passed away over the weekend. She was 82.
Here’s the basics, courtesy of the Associated Press:
Born April 29, 1926, in East Durham, N.Y., Marguerite Blossom Dearie dropped her first name to bolster a musical career that began with early training in piano and moved to jazz vocals. By the mid-1940s, she was a member of the Blue Flames, associated with Woody Herman’s orchestra and with the Alvino Rey band.
What the Associated Press article doesn’t mention, however, is that there’s an entry on her resume that makes Blossom Dearie a major figure in the Pop Culture Pantheon of GenXers: she was the voice behind several Schoolhouse Rock! tunes.
It’s true. Blossom lent her unique little girl voice to two of SHR’s most memorable songs, “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives.” The song “Figure Eight” is probably remembered best for its creepy melody, which Dearie sings in a spooky “I see dead people!” sing-song sorta tone. Once you heard it, it was a song you couldn’t forget, even if you changed the channel with a shudder the moment you heard its faux vibraphone opening notes on Saturday morning.
Put a bowl of Freakies cereal in your lap and listen as Blossom does her thing for the number eight:
Thanks for the memories, Blossom Dearie.
What is it about that tone that strikes me as creepy? There’s a combination of innocence and mysterious depth that intrigues me; plus, the scale mode is half-plaintive, half-dreamy.
It affects me in exactly the same way as Nancy Sinatra’s voice of Phaedra in the rather weird Some Velvet Morning.
Boy, that was weird! And what’s with the outfit? Based on the setup, I figured Nancy Sinatra was gonna appear dressed like Barbarella or something, not a school guidance counselor…