Friday, July 18, 2008

Thinking about Jo Stafford

I spent much of yesterday listening to Stafford (including "Darlene Edwards"), who died Wednesday and it's simply amazing how little the texture, "sound," quality, timbre, range etc. of her singing voice changed over the thirty-or-so years of her career. Must've been all that classical training.

I remember my friend Nat Shapiro (apochryphally??) telling me one time that the sound of Stafford's recorded voice in song possessed the seemingly MIRACULOUS ability to ofttimes bring brain-damaged GIs back to consciousness in military hospitals during WWII. The routine became standard operating recovery procedure, he said. (St. Jo?)

I ran into Stafford's musician son, Tim Weston, at a party a few years back. I quoted something that his mother had said to me in an interview about the innocuousness and disposability of most rock music. To wit:

"When the Presleys and other first, popular, legend-in-their-own-time performers started to come along it was the first time in the U.S. where a ten-year-old had enough money to influence something to the extent that they did. So when you've got a ten-year-old picking the music it's going to be pretty simple. Just above the level of a nursery rhyme. The other music is too sophisticated for young ears. I'm not being judgmental at all; it's a simple statement of fact that that's the first time kids had enough money to influence a market and they did."

I couldn't have agreed more, and I told Weston so. He, at once, became engagingly argumentative with me. He couldn't have disagreed with "Mom" and me more. Before the back-and-forth between us was over I felt the two of us were replaying a scene that might have taken place between a teenaged Tim and his mother (with me taking the role of Stafford) back in the Sixties. But all very civil and amiable.

I can't emphasis too strongly how brilliant I still feel Stafford's comments on rock to've been. Many other remarks about music made by Stafford and her husband Paul Weston in the interview I conducted with were, in my opinion, of equally strong import. (Though ---LOL---I'm not so certain Tim Weston would agree.) Eventually, however, Stafford must've made some impression on him. Tim Weston started out as a standard issue Beverly Hills boy band rock guitarist before gradually gravitating more and more toward the field of jazz. He produced the terrific "Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson" CD, among many other fine recordings, including some for the wonderful singer Shelby Flint who has been his partner for the past couple of decades.

One time Paul Weston sent me a recording of his and Stafford's daughter Amy, a professional singer. It struck me as uncanny how similar to her mother she naturally sounded. It would fool some? many? most? all? in a blindfold test?

My condolences to Tim, Amy and their families.

1 comment:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"I remember my friend Nat Shapiro (apochryphally??) telling me one time that the sound of Stafford's recorded voice in song possessed the seemingly MIRACULOUS ability to ofttimes bring brain-damaged GIs back to consciousness in military hospitals during WWII. The routine became standard operating recovery procedure, he said. (St. Jo?)"

Interesting. I agree that the quality of her voice seemed to change little over the years. Always, inevitably soothing.