Barbara Cook, 1927-2017

The lights will be dimmed on Broadway today in her honor. Barbara Cook, a great Broadway star of the 1950s and early 1960s has died at the age of 89. From Variety:

Barbara Cook, the golden-age Broadway ingenue who became a beloved cabaret and concert performer in the second act of her career, has died. She was 89.

Her son, Adam LeGrant, confirmed to Variety that she died early Tuesday morning at her home in Manhattan, surrounded by friends and family.

Known for her rich, clear soprano with an astonishing range, Cook shot to Broadway fame in “Candide” and won a Tony for her turn in the original 1957 production of “The Music Man.” In later years, she was hailed as one of the premier interpreters of the songs of Stephen Sondheim, thrilling audiences with both her technical skill and her ability to mine a song for the depth and complexity of its emotions. She received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2011.

Her obituary in the LA Times, also notable, closes with this anecdote:

When asked what her advice usually was to aspiring singers, she told the AP it boiled down to three words that she learned early on and have been her guide.

“You are enough. You are always enough. You don’t ever have to pretend to be anything other than what you are. All you have to do is deeply embrace who you are, and you’ll be fine,” she said. “In life, aren’t you drawn to the more authentic people? Of course. You’re not drawn to phonies.”

Ms. Cook struggled with alcoholism in the 1960s and 1970s, a struggle which robbed her of her marriage, her career, her slim figure, and, for a time, her voice. After she stopped drinking she had a lengthy second career in cabarets and on the concert stage. She created three important Broadway roles: Cunegonde in Candide, Marion Paroo in The Music Man, and Amalia Balash from She Loves Me.

Her interpretations of songs had a warmth and depth rarely equalled.


This tribute to Barbara Cook at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony is particularly fine:

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment