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Beverly Kenney

Singer Beverly Kenney remains one of jazz's great tragedies -- an exquisitely nuanced stylist whose sophisticated phrasing perfectly complemented the cool jazz sensibilities of the late '50s, she committed suicide at the peak of her career and awaits rediscovery by the vast majority of the listening public.

Born in Harrison, NJ, on January 29, 1932, Kenney began her career singing birthday greetings via telephone for Western Union. Ultimately she relocated to New York City, and in 1954 cut her first demo session with pianist Tony Tamburello (finally issued in 2006 under the title Snuggled on Your Shoulder). By year's end Kenney relocated to Miami, soon securing an agent and appearing at the Black Magic Room. There she was discovered by the Dorsey Brothers, spending several months on tour with their orchestra before creative differences prompted her exit. From there Kenney returned to New York, working clubs in the company of George Shearing, Don Elliott, and Kai Winding in addition to briefly touring the Midwest with the Larry Sonn Band before signing to the Roost label, which in early 1956 issued her debut LP, Beverly Kenny Sings for Johnny Smith. Come Swing with Me, a pairing with arranger Ralph Burns, followed later that same year, and in the spring of 1957 she teamed with Jimmy Jones & the Basie-Ites for her final effort for the label.

Kenney resurfaced on Decca in 1958 with Sings for Playboys -- her masterpiece, Born to Be Blue, soon followed, and a year later she issued her swan song, Like Yesterday. Critics and fellow artists were virtually unanimous in their praise of Kenney's artistry, but the emergence of rock & roll virtually guaranteed she would remain anonymous to the public at large. Tellingly, during a May 18, 1958, appearance on NBC's The Steve Allen Show, she performed an original composition titled "I Hate Rock and Roll." Friends and colleagues generally cite Kenney as a melancholy, distant figure in the final months of her life, but her suicide at age 28 on April 13, 1960, still raises myriad questions: by most accounts, she spent her last hours writing each of her parents long, heartbreaking letters at the desk in her Greenwich Village flat before consuming a lethal overdose of alcohol and Seconal, but her motivations are unknown. A 1992 GQ magazine profile by Jonathan Schwartz suggests Kenney was despondent over the dissolution of her romance with Beat Generation guru Milton Klonsky, but a subsequent investigation by fan and journalist Bill Reed casts serious doubt on this theory. While a virtual footnote in her native U.S., Kenney boasts an ever-growing cult following in Japan, where all six of her LPs have remained in print. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Thank you Thank you Pandora.Cant believe I missed her.She is great.I cant stop listerning
I have found Jonathan Schwartz to be a questionable source. He has been known to confuse performers and info regarding them, eg.Etta James and Etta Jones. However, Beverly Kenney certainly deserves attention, not just for the tragic ending to her life, but for her talent. Thanks, Pandora
What a tragic story? Lovely phrasing and intonation!! !
ZonaHill76

Beverly Kenney, Had her own Sylish Ear, Singing from the heart; choosing only songs which related to hers' daily life experience; An great lady and dancer. Let's continue to Salute and praised this singer.
mermaid_stud i o s
What a beautiful woman and beautiful talent! But she lives forever because of Pandora!
I grew up with her and she was great. I think Stacey Kent is pretty close!
paulbeeman
Pandora: Thanks for the gift of Beverly Kenney. Love her style.
youshockm
i a77 yrs old like carolyn said what a loss mike
What a loss!
marine.art
I really like Pandora just because of things like this. I learn about artists I never knew about before
Thanks for bringing this superb voice to me for the first time, and surely, not the last!
dr.donnadege o r g e
Never heard of her but now will be sure to look for more of her music.
She is fabulous! First time I've ever heard her, thanks Pandora!
"Gay Chicks" is a fantastic song by a great singer.
Nice pick-up Pandora, truly a lost gem.
paulgalow
I actually wore out one of her LP's.
sanelinger
SHE WAS SUPERB,SO HAPPY I FOUND HER TALENT.ISHAL L TRULY ENJOY HER FOR YEARS TO COME.HER SUICIDE,SO SAD.
I have found the jackpot! Great voice.
whoa a lost gem!
gailearm
very nice. never heard of her before but i like her.
itskitsch
One of the most captivating voices. So incredibly beautiful. Her suicide only makes the vocals more haunting.
listen 2 them lyrics...
Wow! I have listened to jazz for 50 years and never heard her until she came up on Pandora, I think on the Billie Holliday channel. How tragic, her suicide at 28
stellarviole t
what a gem she is!
Her records are rare and it's a treat to find this work again.

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