Saddest of all yesterday was the news that we lost Barbara Cook.
From the moment I heard her on the "Candide" recording, she remained for me "the greatest of all Cunegonedes." But my relationship with her began long before that.
My parents had several cast albums in their collection. One of these was "The Music Man," which intrigued me. I had seen the movie, when young, and loved Robert Preston's performance. Of course, I wanted to do it. It was one of the juiciest male musical theater roles out there; what's more, one I could see myself in. Even at thirteen, I knew I could sing Curly or Billy Bigelow, but no way would I ever be cast in those parts.
So, I learned Preston's part. But I was also fascinated by Pert Kelton on "Piano Lesson." I tried learning that. In the middle of this song was this gorgeous soprano voice. I looked at the back of the album, which billed Preston at the top, then added, "with Barbara Cook." Really. Who is this?
So, simply by coincidence, I put on "Goodnight, My Someone," and fell in love with Barbara Cook. During my emotionally fraught adolescence, I would go up to my parents' bedroom in the evening, while everyone was still downstairs, sit on the corner of my mother's bed, staring into space outside a nearby window, toward a large tree blanketing most of the front of our house, and, sotto voce, would sing "Goodnight, My Someone," because I understood the longing in that song. I did not know then what understanding this song meant, but it sure made sense to me. Which defined the genius of Barbara Cook; she made the emotion of the song as understandable as its technique. If you watch her closely, she offers, to those who aspire to sing, a lesson in how to act out a song. She was the best.
Christine Ebersole, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jessie Mueller, Judy Kuhn, and Audra McDonald, would be the first to say how much they owe to Barbara Cook. As well as Neva Small, who appeared with her, in "Something More."
On her 1977 album, "As Of Today"--my God, that's forty years ago!!!!!--Rex Reed, in the liner notes, wrote, "But if I get to Heaven, and all the angels don't sound like Barbara Cook," God will have a lot to answer for."
Well, Barbara is there now, so God can relax!
I am glad I lived long enough to write a personal tribute to Barbara Cook. I remember each and every time I saw her live on stage. It saddens me I will not be doing that, anymore.
You were loved, Barbara, and still are!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What an infinite amount of songs to choose from Barbara Cook. I settled on "Make Your Garden Grow," from the 1956 "Candide," where she played Cunegonde, Listen to that magical moment when the music stops, and the singers go on, and even with everyone full out, Barbara Cook's voice is still distinct! Remarkable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!