Obituaries

Patti Page, one of top selling singers ever was 85


patti-page-baby.jpgPatti Page was on the schedule to receive a lifetime achievement Grammy Award next month. The top selling female recording artist of the 1950s died January 1 in a nursing home in Encinitas, near San Diego. She had lived in Rancho Santa Fe. In her career Page reportedly sold more than 100 million records. The New York Times called Page an "apple-cheeked, honey-voiced alto whose sentimental, soothing, sometimes silly hits like 'Tennessee Waltz,' 'Old Cape Cod' and 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?' made her one of the most successful pop singers of the 1950s."

Ms. Page had briefly been a singer with Benny Goodman when she emerged at the end of the big band era, just after World War II, into a cultural atmosphere in which pop music was not expected to be challenging. Critics assailed her style as plastic, placid, bland and antiseptic, but those opinions were not shared by millions of record buyers. As Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times in 1997, “For her fans, beauty and comfort were one and the same.”


“Doggie in the Window,” a perky 1952 novelty number written by Bob Merrill and Ingrid Reuterskiöld, featured repeated barking sounds and could claim no more sophisticated a lyric than “I must take a trip to California.” It is often cited as an example of what was wrong with pop music in the early ’50s, a perceived weakness that opened the door for rock ’n’ roll. But if that is true, and if the silky voice of “the singing rage, Miss Patti Page,” as she was introduced during her heyday, was mechanical or sterile, she had significant achievements nonetheless.

“Tennessee Waltz,” from 1951, sold 10 million copies and is largely considered the first true crossover hit; it spending months on the pop, country and rhythm-and-blues charts.

Ms. Page was believed to be the first recording artist to overdub herself, long before technology made that method common. Mitch Miller, a producer for Mercury Records at the time, had her do it first on “Confess,” in 1948, when there were no backup singers because of a strike.

The height of her career predated the Grammy Awards, which were created in 1959, but she finally won her first and only Grammy in 1999 for “Live at Carnegie Hall,” a recording of a 1997 concert celebrating her 50th anniversary as a performer. Her career was also the basis of recent, short-lived Off Broadway musical, “Flipside: The Patty Page Story.”

The Recording Academy said today that Page will be honored posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award in February.


Photo: Miss Patti Page.com


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