Dear Blossom

It’s a name that is hard to forget. I would have first heard it when her song I Like London in the Rain first landed in my world. That was from the album That’s Just the Way I Want to Be from 1970, one of four albums she recorded in London after first pitching up  in the capital in 1965. I have a vague memory of hearing it in a club somewhere in the late 80s/early 90s and was immediately intrigued by her voice.

I had no idea then, that the funky drums on the recording  were by the one and only Spike Wells, a stalwart of Tubby Hayes’ last quartet and someone I have got to know as a friend over the past ten years. Added to that, the sax break in the middle of the song being  by the wonderful Harold McNair, who I greatly admire, and you fully appreciate,  it really is a small world getting smaller.

 Anyway, as I said, I loved Blossom’s fragile, ethereal voice and was soon off buying up what I could of her work. With a career spanning several decades, she remains an influential figure in the jazz genre, captivating audiences with her unique interpretations, witty lyricism, and unparalleled talent. 

This Speakeasy delves into the life, music, and enduring legacy of a singer who continues to enchant listeners worldwide.

Margrethe Blossom Dearie was born on April 28, 1924, in East Durham, New York. Yes, it’s her real name. Her father, Harry, was Scottish and mum, also called Magrethe, Norwegian, with young Blossom known as Babe in the family. Something of a musical prodigy, she worked out tunes on a piano from a very early age and then began proper lessons aged six.

 ‘I had an extremely happy childhood, and the sound of it remains there in my voice.’

She went on to study classical music at the Peabody Conservatory in Washington, and then she discovered jazz, with early favourite performers being Art Tatum and Errol Garner. Blossom’s jazz journey continued, when she moved to New York City in the 1940s, quickly immersing herself in its vibrant jazz scene. There, she sang with Woody Herman and her first recording was working on the single In The Merry Land of Bop by Buddy Stewart, where she met fellow singer Dave Lambert. He in turn introduced her to Gil Evans and she became part of his salon, which met at his apartment most days and included Gerry Mulligan and Miles Davis.

By the early 50s she was working at the Greenwich Village club, the Chantilly, and there, she met many jazzers as they passed through its doors. She then travelled to, and worked in Paris, with her good friend and fellow singer Annie Ross. There, Blossom formed the Blue Stars with a young Michel Legrand in the line-up, and they went on to have a top 20 in the US with Lullaby of Birdland,  sung in French. The group would eventually morph into The Swingle Singers a few years later.

Her first solo album Blossom Dearie was released on the Verve label in 1957, having been recorded the previous year.

‘London was swinging when I arrived’

She then hit London and first performed there in 1965, at ‘Annie’s Room’ a club based in Covent Garden run by her good friend Annie Ross. Whilst here, she went on to make appearances on the TV show, ‘Not Only but Also’ with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and then she performed at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for the first time in 1966.

‘After four bars, the inclination is to laugh. But slowly Miss Dearie’s quiet persistence takes over, her exquisite sense of timing begins to register, and the childlike demeanour is seen to be a mere front for a highly sophisticated style. A sense of humour in a jazz singer is a rare gift and Blossom has it’ – Benny Green.

She continued to work consistently in London over the following years, often back at Ronnie’s on a residency, but also at The Pizza on the Park. She was also working out of New York too and she also loved touring Australia, where she found an audience who remembered her fondly there, from her appearances on often repeated British television shows from the 1960s and 70s.

Latterly, she was based and performed almost exclusively in New York during the 1990s, living in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood. Her last live performance took place in  2006. 

Selecting songs of hers from the 30 odd albums she recorded is no easy feat, but among those I recommend having a listen to, include Once Upon a Summertime (a fave of Miles Davis who often asked her ‘Perform my song for me’) My Gentleman Friend, Peel Me a Grape, They Say It’s Spring, I’m in the Mood for Love (with King Pleasure) Now at Last,  Sweet Georgie Fame, Dusty Springfield, Somebody New, I’m Hip and Sunday Afternoon.

Over the years, her gentle voice and impeccable phrasing have been cited as influential by artists such as Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, Melody Gardot and a huge fan of hers, Kylie Minogue. 

Despite Blossom’s passing in February  2009, aged 84, her music lives on and this June,  sees the release of  a sumptuous six -CD box set of her Fontana years in London from 1966 to 1970, entitled Discover Who I am  

You can find more info on that here, click on box set cover below:

I assure you, hours of great music awaits you.


The Mumper of SE5

Read The Mumper’s other weekly musings on ‘The Speakeasy’ blog page




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The Speakeasy Volume 3 by Mark Baxter, Bax began writing for the The Speakeasy on the Art Gallery Clothing site in 2017 & has covered various mod related subjects from music to film & clobber to art & literature.




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