I figured since I did a list of my favorite male singers, I should do one on my five favorite songbirds. Surprisingly it was harder to do this list than the male counterpart list. My top three favorite female singers have stayed the same through the years, but the other two spots are up for grabs. It varies depending on my mood, so don't get too upset with this list. It is changes weekly...
5. ALICE FAYE (1915-1998)
I know people will find it shocking that I rank Alice Faye higher than such polished singers as Doris Day and Margaret Whiting or than some jazz songbirds like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, but I feel that Alice could sing anything. She did not have much or a recording output, and it was a crime because she had a wonderful voice. Faye recorded a little in the 1930s and then her studio boss Daryl Zanuck at 20th Century Fox would not let her make an more commercial recordings. She sang some nice number on her radio show with husband Phil Harris in the early 1950s and then she made one album for Reprise Records in the 1960s. Again it is a crime against musical lovers that she did not record more.
4. KATE SMITH (1907-1986)
Eddie Cantor once said that Kate Smith had such a huge frame to hold a heart so big. It is definitely true, because I do not think there was a nicer person in the musical business. A sign of a good singer is the ability to adapt to changing times and song styles. Kate Smith sang every genre from classic pop to country to rock from the 1920s to the 1970s. I love Kate's old vintage recordings from the early 1930s like "Too Late" and "River Stay Away From My Door". I also love some of her later work like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine", "Yesterday", and "More". Of course I have three words why Kate should be on anyone's top list - "God Bless America". We were robbed of Kate's voice when she suffered a diabetic stroke in 1976 and for the next ten years she suffered greatly. Her recordings I have are among my prized possessions.
3. DINAH SHORE (1917-1994)
In later years Dinah Shore became more known as a television personality than a singer, but throughout the 1940s and 1950s I think she had one of the most pleasant voices on record. She was discovered by Eddie Cantor, and was a long time contract singer for RCA records. Her early 1940s records like "Skylark", "Sophisticated Lady", and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" showed that Dinah was vocally pretty advanced for her age. In the 1950s she moved to Capitol and then to Reprise for a bit, and I think her recordings suffered. However, she would still make a good record like "Mississippi Mud", "Carolina In The Morning", and even her version of the Frank Sinatra hit "Love And Marriage" was almost better than Sinatra's version. Dinah pretty much stopped recording or even singing for that matter in the 1970s, but her personality was like a beautiful song, and I was a fan until the sad day I heard she had passed away.
2. CONNEE BOSWELL (1907-1976)
Like most of the women on this list, Connee Boswell really did not make a bad recording. Even her horrible recording on Decca of the song "Mommy" is still worth listening to. Connee began her recording career with her sisters in 1925, and soon they were the most popular sister group in the country. The trio recorded some true masterpieces of music like: "42nd Street", "Heebie Jeebies", and "That's How Rhythm Was Born". By 1936, the sisters were all getting married, and Connee's two sisters - Vet and Martha wanted to retire. Connee signed with Decca Records and continued to make recordings for them for the next twenty years. Her best recordings were later in her career though. She recorded her final record on the Decca label with Sy Oliver in 1956 titled simply "Connee". The record is a masterpiece in my opinion. Her version of "I'd Climb The Highest Mountain" among others is one of my favorite recordings. She also made a great album with the Original Memphis Five a year later on the RCA label. With the change in music, Connee slowly withdrew from the scene, but again we are lucky for the wonderful music she left behind.
1. JO STAFFORD (1917-2008)
One of the true sadnesses in my adult years was that I never got to talk or meet Jo Stafford. I am lucky to have gotten her autograph, but in later years she did not appear much in public but was devoted to her family and fans. Jo started out singing with her sister in the late 1930s, and then she joined the Pied Pipers and worked with Tommy Dorsey. Unlike Frank Sinatra's recordings with Dorsey, Jo Stafford did not do any real great solo work with the band. However, Stafford was one of the first artists signed to the new Capitol Recordings in 1943. Her solo work made her one of the great voices of all time. In the 1940s her recordings included: "The Trolley Song", "Candy", and others - but one of her greatest recordings came in 1953. Her version of "You Belong To Me" is among my favorite records of all time, and the record is an example of the perfect pitch that Jo Stafford had. In the 1950s she moved over to Columbia Records and then to Reprise for a bit. Every album she made or song she sang was worth listening to, and like the other singers she retired from the musical scene way too soon. Jo Stafford stopped recording around 1970, but many of her recordings are among the best that were ever put on record.
Of course, this top five list does not include all of the great female singers out there - they are only my five favorites. Here are five more than deserve to be on anyone else's best of list as well: Margaret Whiting (1924-2011), Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), Judy Garland (1922-1969), Billie Holiday (1915-1959), and Doris Day (born 1924). Again, this list is not a definitive list by any means. Who would you have on your top five...