Tuesday, March 09, 2010


American jazz and popular music singer Dorothy Jacqueline Keely (of Cherokee and Irish descent), best known as Keely Smith, was born on March 9, 1932, in Norfolk, Virginia and enjoyed popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. She collaborated with, among others, Louis Prima and Frank Sinatra.

Smith showed a natural aptitude for singing at a young age. At 14, she started singing with a naval air station band led by Saxie Dowell. At 15, she got her first paying job with the Earl Bennett band.

She made her professional debut with Louis Prima in 1949 (the couple were married in 1953); Smith played the "straight guy" in the duo to Prima's wild antics and they recorded many duets. These include Johnny Mercer's and Harold Arlen's "That Old Black Magic", which was a Top 20 hit in the US in 1958. In 1959, Smith and Prima were awarded the first-ever Grammy Awards for Best Performance by a vocal Group or Chorus for "That Ol' Black Magic". Her "dead-pan" act was a hit with fans. The duo followed up with the minor successes "I've Got you Under My Skin" and "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen", a revival of the 1937 Andrew Sisters hit. Smith and Prima's act was a mainstay of the Las Vegas lounge scene for much of the 1950s.

Keely Smith appeared with Prima in the 1959 film,"Hey,Boy! Hey Girl!", singing "Fever", and also appeared in and sang on the "soundtrack of the previous year's Thunder Road. Her song in Thunder Road was "Whippoorwill". Her first big solo hit was "I Wish You Love". In 1961, she divorced Prima. She then signed with Reprise Records, where her musical director was Nelson Riddle. In 1965, she had Top 20 hits in the UK with an album of Beatles compositions and a version of "You're Breaking My Heart".

After marrying record producer Jimmy Bowen, Smith retired from music to concentrate on raising her children. In 1985, she made a comeback with the CD "I'm in Love Again" (Fantasy Records). Her albums, "Swing, Swing, Swing" (2002), "Keely Smith Sings Sinatra" (2001) for which she was Grammy nominated, and "Keely Smith Swings Count Basie with Strings" (2002) garnered critical and fan acclaim.

Smith released the album "Vegas '58 - Today" a compilation of her best known songs, all recorded live. Smith has re-recorded a number of songs from her Prima years, including a modified version of "Oh Marie," which has been renamed "Oh Louis" in tribute. By her own admission, she has never had a singing lesson and cannot read music.

Today, in her 70s, Smith works a light touring schedule, but continues to wow fans with her strong voice and natural stage presence. She was booked at the Café Carlyle in New York City for the month of April 2007. On February 10, 2008, Smith performed "That Old Black Magic" with Kid Rock at the 50th Grammy Awards.

In 2008, Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder wrote and starred in the new musical, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, which premiered at Los Angeles' Sacred Fools Theatre Company and went on to be nominated for four Ovation Awards, including the Franklin R. Levy Award for Musical in an Intimate Theatre, which it won.

Keely does "That Old Black Magic " with Louis Prima.

Reference - Wikipédia

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