A Stamp of Approval for Sarah Vaughan

May 27, 2016

The vocal virtuosity of one of the last century’s jazz giants lives on through those who came after her, scores of albums, and now a U.S. Postal Service stamp. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston and Bob Perkins consider the late, great Sarah Vaughan.

Sarah Vaughan in the mid 1940s.
Credit William P. Gottlieb

Radio script:

Music: Sarah Vaughan, "Ain’t Misbehavin' "

Meridee Duddleston:  She started in Newark, New Jersey playing the piano and singing in church on Sunday mornings.  But during some restless teenage years, Sarah Vaughan began venturing across the Hudson to jazz clubs in New York.

She entered an "Amateur Night" contest at the Apollo Theater in 1942 and won – setting the wheels in motion for a career that lasted until she passed away in 1990 in California at age 66.  Sarah Vaughan is a favorite of WRTI jazz host Bob Perkins.

MUSIC:  Sarah Vaughan, "When Your Lover Has Gone"

Bob Perkins:  There used to be a candy bar that described itself as 'indescribably delicious.' I guess you could say that about Sarah’s voice. It’s like love. You couldn’t pin it down.

MD:  As star power and touring became a way of life, Vaughan acquired the nickname, "The Divine One."  It was a reference to her effortless multi-octave range.  Off stage she inspired, and liked, another moniker that was quite the opposite.

BP:  There was a dichotomy there.  She was found to be sometimes kind of salty: hence the name “Sassy,” one of her nicknames. She could cuss like a sailor when provoked.  To a lot of interviewers, she was a very tough interview to do. It depended on her frame of mind.

MUSIC: Sarah Vaughan, "Send in the Clowns"

MD:  Sarah Vaughan skipped through jazz, pop, Broadway hits, and more, showcasing her monumental gift to audiences in concert halls and clubs, and to presidents.

BP:  She knew she was Sarah Vaughan and no one else could do what she could do with that magnificent voice.

MD:  A voice that lives on through albums old and new, and now a U.S. "Forever" stamp carries her image.

Although the U.S. Postal service has honored musicians with stamps in the past, the "Music Icon" series was created in 2013 to focus more attention on American musical greats.  Sarah Vaughan is the seventh performer to be included in the series, which includes Lydia Mendoza, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley.

The stamp art is an oil painting of Vaughan in performance based on a 1955 photograph by Hugh Bell. Other jazz artists featured on U.S. postal stamps include Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Benny Goodman.

Resonance Records, with the cooperation of NPR, announces the release of Sarah Vaughan – Live At Rosy's  on March 25, 2016.  The deluxe two-CD set is comprised exclusively of newly discovered recordings by Ms. Vaughan capturing the legendary jazz singer's live performance at Rosy's Jazz Club in New Orleans  on May 31, 1978.