Bigger than life…after life.
A number of singers didn’t get the recognition they deserved in their lifetime for one reason or another. Johnny Hartman, the quintessential romantic balladeer, earned critical acclaim early in his career, but he wasn’t well known. He recorded a brilliant album with John Coltrane–“John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”–in the mid-sixties, but it wasn’t until 1995, twelve years after his death that his reputation grew considerably. When the film “Bridges of Madison Country” was released in 1995, four of Hartman’s songs were featured. You might remember the scene in which Merryl Streep and Clint Eastwood danced in the kitchen. They danced to Hartman singing “I See Your Face Before Me.” Here it is…“I See Your Face Before Me.”
Eva Cassidy is another. Her recordings of a number of American Songbook classics are sublime. But Eva, who died of cancer in her thirties, received little recognition during her lifetime. Now, many of her recordings have become modern day standards. Here’s one of my favorites…Autumn Leaves. If you haven’t heard Eva sing this tune, you are in for a treat…beautifully sung with intense longing.
And then there’s Etta James. A few of her songs were hits during her lifetime, including “At Last,” but she is only now getting the recognition she deserves. Listen and watch here “I’d Rather Go Blind,” as Etta performs with Doctor John. Etta was, in my opinion, an underrated talent. No more.