Blossom Dearie, the whimsical singer-songwriter with a pixie’s voice who entertained generations of nightclub goers, died Saturday morning after her health deteriorated in recent years. She was 82. Dearie performed as a jazz vocalist in nightclubs in New York and London for decades, with her last appearance in 2006 at Danny’s Skylight Room in New York.
Dearie preferred to be called a “songwriter’s singer,” as she told Los Angeles Times critic Leonard Feather years ago. Over the course of her long career, Dearie regularly collaborated with some of the best, including Johnny Mercer and Dave Frishberg, often writing her own melodies. While Dearie never had a hit, her tunes, like “Bye-Bye Country Boy” and ‘I’m Hip,’ are regular rotations on the nightclub circuit. Other catchy tunes, like “Peel Me a Grape,” were covered by the likes of Dusty Springfield and continue to be covered today.
On April 29, 1926, Marguerite Blossom Dearie was born in East Durham, N.Y., and named after a neighbor delivered peach blossoms the day of her birth. Trained on the piano, she switched to jazz and moved to New York City in the 1940s where she sang with the Blue Flames a vocal group in Woody Herman’s big band. Dearie moved to Paris in the 1950s where she sang with the Blue Stars, an eight-member group she formed. In the 1960s, her popular radio tune for Hires Root Beer was such a hit she later released an entire album inspired by it, “Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin’ Songs.”
Dearie continued recording albums for Verve Records and Capitol Records through the 1960s, but as rock and roll became popular, her delicate songs hit harder times. She established her own record company, Daffodil Records, in 1974, and later contributed to the educational sing-along “Schoolhouse Rock!” on tracks like ‘Mother Necessity,’ ‘Figure Eight’ and ‘Unpack Your Adjectives.’
In later years, she perfected the Brazilian style of bossa nova, and her final album, “Blossoms Planet,” released in 2000, captured “her voice floating away as though to sea, or to heaven, on lapping waves of tastefully synthesized strings,” according to Stephen Holden of the New York Times.
Dearie is survived by her brother, Barney, and a niece and nephew.