A twenty year anniversary is usually a happy milestone for people. It could celebrate your longevity at a job or with your spouse. Unfortunately today marks a somber 20th anniversary as I and many others mark the passing of the great vocalist Nancy LaMott who died on this day at the all too young age of 43.
For the past four years there have been remembrances and appreciations of Nancy written on this site by yours truly and featuring her producer David Friedman and musical director Christopher Marlowe. This year I thought I’d do something different.
People have asked me was Nancy LaMott really that good and why do I still make it a point to listen to her. Yes, she was and still is THAT good and here are five of the many reasons why I am still listening after all this time.
1- Let’s start with Nancy’s impeccable choice of material. With only a few notes in the accompaniment, the song could speak volumes. Consider Christopher Marlowe’s sparse piano arrangement on Nancy’s version of “Moon River” as a prime example of this. It appears on her Come Rain or Come Shine cd. If you only know Henry Mancini’s big lush original version of this song, do yourself a favor and click the above link for a couple of minutes of bliss.
2- While Nancy LaMott sang many songs from the Great American Songbook, she was equally as comfortable singing new material. One of my favorites is “Why Don’t We Run Away” from her debut cd Beautiful Baby. David Zippel’s lyrics and Bryan Sommers’ music proves that no matter what Nancy sang the result was the same.
Before going on, I have to mention that David Friedman is just about to release a new cd of Nancy’s recordings that are all songs by David Zippel. It includes some previously released and a bunch of unreleased material. It also features Nancy being accompanied by such Broadway luminaries as Cy Coleman and Marvin Hamlisch.
3- If you only knew Nancy LaMott from her recordings, as I did, you probably wouldn’t know how sick she actually was towards the end. Take for instance her recording of “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” from her Live at Tavern on the Green and Ask Me Again The above link is from the latter recording and was the last song Nancy ever sang. Listen to it and you tell me if it sounds like the voice of a dying woman. It’s vocal perfection.
4- Inventiveness was always present in any recording Nancy LaMott. Take for example the pairing of two Christmas staples like “I Saw Three Ships” and “Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella.” The arrangement appears on Nancy’s Just in Time for Christmas. Consider the way these songs are generally sung around the holidays. Generally there is a choir or a symphony orchestra performing them at a big holiday concert. Now click the above link for a version of these songs that is like no other. It’s just Nancy and a trio. I need nothing else musically at this time of year but that.
5- Number five might be the most personal reason of them all. Usually when you mourn the loss of someone, it’s because you knew them personally or had some kind of a connection to them work wise. I only knew Nancy LaMott through her recordings. If someone’s voice can make that much of an impression on you and you never met them in person that is reason enough to be a lifelong fan. When David Friedman’s “Listen to My Heart” was played at Nancy’s Memorial, the roof of the church came in. We couldn’t believe cancer had silenced that voice. Click above for Nancy singing that song from the cd of the same name. It features an orchestration by Peter Matz, one of the great arrangers of his time. It will most likely have the same reaction that we all had that day. It left us all asking “WHY?” and wondering what would have been.
After writing about Nancy LaMott for what is now five years, you have to wonder what I can say that I haven’t already said. David Friedman promised Nancy on her death bed that he would make sure that the world would never forget about her. I think I feel the same way. You listen to her recordings and are simply enthralled and mesmerized every time. Twenty years after Nancy LaMott’s passing, that sentiment still rings true. Nancy LaMott, 20 years gone but never ever forgotten.
As we all know, many vocalists receive an encore at the end of a performance. Here is my choice for Nancy’s. With everything going on in the world today, listen to “We Can Be Kind” from Nancy’s Listen to My Heart cd. Music and Lyrics by David Friedman. Orchestration by Peter Matz.