© 1998 Steve Sherman
Widely acclaimed as one of the top jazz-pop vocalist of our time, Susannah McCorkle was noted for her repertoire of over 3,000 songs, her fresh interpretations of classic pop songs, her emotional warmth and depth, and her sly, spontaneous humor.
She performed with groups ranging in size from jazz duo to big band and symphony orchestra in the US, Europe, and Japan. Her many albums have earned international critical praise.
Her current CD, Most Requested Songs, was the last project she completed before her tragic death. It includes 14 songs, personally handpicked by Susannah, that were most often requested by her fans around the world, including "The Waters of March", "The People That You Never Get to Love" and "They Can’t Take That Away From Me". The CD quickly soared to the top ten list of the traditional jazz chart.
An earlier CD, "From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies," was on PULSE! magazine's Top Ten Vocal Album of the Year List. Reflecting what New York Times critic Stephen Holden called "her superb taste in songs," it featured a wide variety of great songs written over a span of seventy years sung in English, French and Portuguese, and included tributes to jazz greats Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Chet Baker, and Django Reinhardt.
Born in Berkeley, California, Susannah studied languages in Mexico, France, Germany, and Italy, graduating from UCB with a degree in Italian literature. She began singing professionally as a student in Europe after she heard Billie Holiday records in Paris and went on to discover vintage jazz and movie musicals.
On the verge of becoming a simultaneous interpreter in four languages for the Common Market in Brussels, she went to London to try for a singing career first.
Three-time winner of the STEREO REVIEW Album of the Year Award, she was named "Singer of the Year" by the LA TIMES and "Woman We Love" by ESQUIRE magazine.
Recent TV and radio appearances include NPR's "Fresh Air," "A Prairie Home Companion," "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz", and other appearances on Brazilian Network TV, "E!", Global TV, CBC, Bloomberg Network, and A&E.
She has published fiction in MADEMOISELLE, COSMOPOLITAN, and THE O. HENRY BOOK OF PRIZE SHORT STORIES, and non-fiction in the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE and in AMERICAN HERITAGE, including lengthy articles on Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Irving Berlin and Mae West.
She was also a gifted lyricist: her English versions of Brazilian, French, and Italian songs have been widely praised by both critics and the original writers, including Antonio Carlos Jobim.
She took pride in developing and writing all her own shows, which were packed with historical information, personal insights, and revealing anecdotes about the songwriters and their songs. Her 1999 sold-out Algonquin show, "From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies," was a complex one-woman theater piece in which, in the words of New York Times critic Stephen Holden, "keeping her tongue lightly in her cheek, she weaves 16 songs around a monologue about a sensitive urban Everywoman recovering from a broken relationship."
In recent years she developed interactive Music Workshops for children from 5 to 18. She gave her Music Workshops at Lincoln Center, at Borders Bookstores, and in public schools in New York, New Jersey and Florida.
She also gave interactive concert-lectures for college students and adults.
She played Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls five times and Carnegie Hall three times, most recently as featured soloist with Skitch Henderson and the 80-piece New York Pops in a concert of Brazilian music.
Her death in May 2001 was a terrible loss for friends, family, her many fans and the world of jazz-pop music. Admirers and music critics around the world continue to write moving tributes to Susannah’s extraordinary, multi-faceted talent and the unique mix of passion and intelligence that illuminated her work.
A survivor of breast cancer, McCorkle suffered for many years from depression and took her own life at age 55 by leaping off the balcony of her 16th-floor apartment on West 86th Street in Manhattan. She was alone in her home at the time. The police immediately entered her home after identifying her body and found no foul play. Suicide was ruled the cause of death.
One year later, in a New York magazine tribute "Jazz Bird" by Gwenda Blair, published May 27, 2002; Blair wrote: "Onstage, singer Susannah McCorkle exuded a sultry self-confidence that won her lifelong fans. But in private, she fought depression so deep -- and so well hidden -- that a year after her suicide, even some in her most intimate circle wonder how they missed the cries for help."
Haunted Heart, a biography of Susannah McCorkle written by Linda Dahl, was published in September 2006 by University of Michigan Press.
- The Music of Harry Warren (1976)
- The Songs of Johnny Mercer (1977)
- Over the Rainbow—The Songs of E.Y. Harburg (1980)
- The People that You Never Get to Love (1981)
- How Do You Keep the Music Playing (1985)
- Thanks for the Memory—The Songs of Leo Robin (1983)
- As Time Goes By (1986) - with Jimmy Heath (ts), Ted Dunbar (g), Billy Taylor (p), Victor Gaskin (b), Tony Reedus (d)
- Dream (1986)
- No More Blues (1988)
- Sábia (1990)
- I'll Take Romance (1992)
- From Bessie to Brazil (1993)
- From Broadway to Bebop (1994)
- Easy to Love—The Songs of Cole Porter (1996)
- Let's Face the Music—The Songs of Irving Berlin (1997)
- Someone to Watch Over Me—Songs of George Gershwin (1998)
- From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies (1999)
- Hearts and Minds (2000)
- Most Requested Songs (2001)
- The Beginning 1975 (2002)
- Ballad Essentials (2002)