Here’s a clip of underrated jazz darling, and recently departed Blossom Dearie with her contribution to Generation X pop culture – her rendition of the Schoolhouse Rock baroque-pop classic “Figure 8”. From the early 1970s to the end of the decade, the Schoolhouse Rock series used music as an educational delivery device. Yet, along the way it produced some memorable tunes. This is my favourite.
And this is my first experience with Blossom Dearie, only having discovered years and years later that she’d been a respected jazz musician, particularly on standards like “I Won’t Dance”, “Thou Swell”, and “Lover Man”, among many others. She debuted on vinyl in 1956, with her self-titled album Blossom Dearie her little girl voice and schoolteacher looks separating her from the usual crowd.
She enjoyed a career which spanned the 1950s to our present decade, having initially signed to the illustrious Verve label, discovered by label boss, promoter, and impresario Norman Grantz after a stint in Paris where she made her way as a cocktail pianist. She would be a live fixture in New York supper clubs, and in London as well, for many years, only retiring from live performances three years ago due to ill-health And maybe the best part – Blossom Dearie was her real name.
But as a child, I knew her voice from this song, watching Saturday morning cartoons and these little musical vignettes about math, grammar, and American history – Schoolhouse Rock. As great as the educational content is, what I was left with was the crystalline beauty of this tune, a real wintry melody much like that of a music box. It’s a bit sad, a bit spacey, and both of its time and timeless at the same time. And Blossom Dearie’s voice is perfect for this – gentle, delicate, yet sure. And I think this is true of her approach to everything she sang.
She died a few days ago in Greenwich Village in her sleep.
Goodbye, Blossom – thanks for ‘Figure 8’. Place it on its side and its a symbol meaning infinity.
For more Blossom Dearie, check out this Blossom Dearie MySpace page.