N E W Y O R K, May 19, 2001 -- Susannah McCorkle, a jazz and cabaret singer whoperformed in major clubs and concert halls throughout the country,died this morning. She was 55.
Police said a preliminary investigation indicated that McCorklejumped to her death from her Manhattan apartment. The singer left asuicide note but investigators declined to reveal its contents. Messages left by phone at McCorkle's offices and those of herrepresentatives were not immediately returned today.
McCorkle was known for a gimmick-free style that evoked bothwarmth and humor, and for an ability to convey a wide range ofemotions across a repertoire of over 2,000 songs. "She may have been the finest of all the cabaret artists thatwe've had at the Oak Room," said Arthur Pomposello, manager of thefamous night spot in Manhattan's Algonquin Hotel. "In fact, she may have been the best jazz singer working incabaret, and that's a credit to her talent." Born in Berkeley, Cal., McCorkle grew up listening to top 40tunes and Broadway show albums. In 1970, however, while living in Europe and studying languages,McCorkle discovered jazz after hearing the legendary singer BillieHoliday. McCorkle quickly shifted careers and started singing in jazzclubs in Italy and Great Britain. Her first collection of jazz wasreleased in 1976. She was also an accomplished writer, whose work has appeared inThe O. Henry Awards Prize Stories, New York magazine, Newsday, andCosmopolitan. She was working on a novel at the time of her death.
Critics have called her one of the finest jazz-pop singers inAmerica. A 1987 release called Dream and featuring Frank Wess,formerly of the Count Basie Orchestra, was a "pick of the week"in The New York Times and Billboard. The collection received a fivestar rating from jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather in theLos Angeles Times, and also won rave reviews from People and StereoReview. Her 1986 album How Do You Keep The Music Playing? won aStereo Review Record of the Year Award and made the top ten listsfor that year from both United Press International and Newhousenational wire services. Feather called it "The best vocal album ofthe year" and named her "Singer of the Year" in his Los AngelesTimes column.