Susannah McCorkle

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Susannah McCorkle
Born (1946-01-04)January 4, 1946
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Died May 19, 2001(2001-05-19) (aged 55)
New York City
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1970s–2001
Labels Inner City, Pausa Concord

Susannah McCorkle (January 4, 1946 – May 19, 2001) was an American jazz singer admired for her unadorned singing style and quiet intensity.


McCorkle was born in Berkeley, California on January 4, 1946.[1] She studied modern languages at the University of California, Berkeley. After a break from school to travel to Mexico, she received her bachelor's degree in Italian literature in 1969. She then moved to Europe, first to Paris, then to Rome, where she worked as a translator. McCorkle began singing professionally after hearing recordings of Billie Holiday in Paris in the late 1960s.[1]

She nearly became an interpreter at the European Commission in Brussels, but moved instead to London in 1972 to pursue a career in singing, and where she made her first recordings: a 1975 demo sessions with the pianist Keith Ingham, followed by her first album, The Music Of Harry Warren, with EMI in 1976. In the late 1970s, McCorkle returned to the United States and settled in New York City with a five-month engagement at the Cookery in Greenwich Village.

During the 1980s, McCorkle continued to record; her maturing style and the darkening timbre of her voice greatly enhanced her performances. In the early 1990s, two of the albums McCorkle made for Concord Records, No More Blues and Sábia, were enormously successful and made her name known to the wider world. She was recorded by the Smithsonian Institution which at the time made her the youngest singer ever to have been included in its popular music series. McCorkle played Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls five times and Carnegie Hall three times, and was featured soloist with Skitch Henderson and the 80-piece New York Pops in a concert of Brazilian music.

Thanks to her linguistic skills, McCorkle translated lyrics of Brazilian, French, and Italian songs, notably those for her Brazilian album Sábia. She had a special affinity for Bossa Nova and often cited Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March" as her personal favorite. McCorkle also had several short stories published and, in 1991, began work on her first novel. She published fiction in Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan Magazine, 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.


A breast cancer survivor, McCorkle suffered for many years from depression and committed suicide at age 55 by leaping off the balcony of her apartment at 41 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 manner of death.[2]

Haunted Heart, a biography of Susannah McCorkle written by Linda Dahl, was published in September 2006 by University of Michigan Press.


  • 1980 Over the Rainbow: The Songs of E. Y. Yip Harburg (Jazz Alliance)
  • 1981 The Songs of Johnny Mercer (Jazz Alliance)
  • 1981 The People That You Never Get to Love (Jazz Alliance)
  • 1981 The Music of Harry Warren (Inner City)
  • 1984 Thanks for the Memory: The Songs of Leo Robin (Jazz Alliance)
  • 1985 How Do You Keep the Music Playing? (Jazz Alliance)
  • 1986 Dream (Concord Jazz/Jazz Alliance)
  • 1988 No More Blues (Concord Jazz)
  • 1990 Sabia (Concord Jazz)
  • 1992 I'll Take Romance (Concord Jazz)
  • 1993 From Bessie to Brazil (Concord Jazz)
  • 1994 From Broadway to Bebop (Concord Jazz)
  • 1995 Easy to Love: The Songs of Cole Porter (Concord Jazz)
  • 1997 Let's Face the Music: The Songs of Irving Berlin (Concord Jazz)
  • 1998 Someone to Watch Over Me: The Songs of George Gershwin (Concord Jazz)
  • 1999 From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies (Concord Jazz)
  • 2000 Hearts and Minds (Concord Jazz)
  • 2002 Ballad Essentials
  • 2015 Adeus: The Berlin Concert[3]


  1. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (May 20, 2001). "Susannah McCorkle Dies; Pop and Jazz Singer Was 55". New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  2. ^ Blair, Gwenda (May 27, 2002). "Jazz Bird". New York Magazine. Retrieved June 3, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Susannah McCorkle | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 

External links

  • Susannah McCorkle Papers, 1946–2001 Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  • Susannah McCorkle at Find a Grave
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