In a previous ARC blog post, it was noted that we had received a very generous donation from the illustrator Hilary Knight that included two autographed Yma Sumac records, as well as a fine collection of film soundtracks and Broadway cast recordings. The donation also included many albums by popular vocalists. With Valentine’s Day coming up, we thought we’d feature a couple of appropriate, sort of, covers from the Hilary Knight collection in our window.
It can be argued that Peggy Lee was one of America’s most famous singers. At the age of 21, Ms. Lee was asked to join the biggest musical group in the country at the time, the Benny Goodman Orchestra. During the mid forties, she recorded for the new Capitol Records. Briefly she recorded with Decca (which resulted in the hit “Black Coffee”) then returned to Capitol where she made a string of popular albums from 1957 to 1972. In 1969, she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance for “Is That All There Is.” However, the song she will always be remembered for is her 1958 version of Little Willie John’s R&B hit “Fever.”
On I Like Men, Ms. Lee sings songs celebrating men, mentioning names along the way—“Charley, My Boy,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “Bill,” “Jim” and “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” She even seems to remain in love with “Good For Nothing Joe.”
In this day and age, Nancy Walker is most likely the least known of these two women, but she also had a long and illustrious career. She was the daughter of a vaudeville entertainer and she came to prominence on Broadway singing in musical comedies that propelled her to film roles during the forties, fifties and sixties. During the seventies she appeared on numerous TV shows, including Family Affair, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, McMillan & Wife and Rhoda. She received several Emmy nominations and even won some of them. She was also immortalized as “Rosie” the waitress in a series of Bounty paper towel commercials.
Ms. Walker counters Ms. Lee with I Hate Men, her own conceptualized vision of men—how annoying they can be! Some of the titles bear this out: “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” “You Irritate Me So,” “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” and the title track. Even in the seemingly innocent sounding “To Keep My Love Alive” she removes a suitor’s head!
So thank you Mr. Knight, for donating these two culturally significant—and timely—albums to the ARChive of Contemporary Music. These two LPs, and the many others that you donated, will find happy homes here on our shelves – and sometimes in our White Street windows!