Celebrate Anita O’Day’s Birthday With “Sweet Tea!”
Anita O'Day was born this day in 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri. According to Wikipedia's biography, she was born Anita Belle Colton. She changed her surname from Colton to O'Day, pig Latin for dough, which is slang for money.
O'Day was an American jazz singer widely admired for her sense of rhythm and dynamics, and her early big band appearances that shattered the traditional image of the "girl singer." Refusing to pander to any female stereotype, O'Day presented herself as a hip jazz musician, wearing a band jacket and skirt as opposed to an evening gown.
O'Day is often grouped with the West Coast cool school of jazz. While maintaining a central core of hard swing, O'Day's skills in improvisation of rhythm and melody put her squarely among the pioneers of bebop.
She cited Martha Raye as the primary influence on her vocal style, also expressing admiration for Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. She always maintained that the accidental excision of her uvula during a childhood tonsillectomy left her incapable of vibrato, and unable to maintain long phrases. That botched operation, she claimed, forced her to develop a more percussive style based on short notes and rhythmic drive. However, when she was in good voice she could stretch long notes with strong crescendos and a telescoping vibrato, e.g. her live version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, captured in Bert Stern's film Jazz on a Summer's Day, seen here: Newport Jazz Festival.
O'Day died in 2006 at the age of 87.