"Lady Sings The Blues" is the title of a 1973 film about the rise and fall of legendary U.S. jazz singer Billie Holiday. It's also the name of a new compilation CD featuring a dozen other famous ladies of jazz.
The jazz singer is back thanks to best-selling recordings by Grammy Award-winners Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Dianne Reeves. To celebrate, Capitol Records has compiled 28 tunes by some of the most popular female voices of all time, including Sarah Vaughan.
Two of the earliest, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, who weathered stormy times both on and off the stage, opened the door for future stars Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
Ella Fitzgerald, known to millions as the "First Lady of Song", could bring a full house to tears with Duke Ellington's Solitude. Not as famous as Ella, but equally effective was Keely Smith, at her best in the 1950s, singing romantic ballads like You Go To My Head.
Also featured on the CD from Keely Smith's era are vocalists Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Kay Starr and Della Reese, as well as the late Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, June Christy, Julie London and Dinah Shore.
Lady jazz singers account for the majority of today's jazz album sales. A consistent seller since 1987 is Michigan native Dianne Reeves.
Before rocketing to super-stardom earlier this year, Norah Jones, 24, was just another singer in the band. She grew up listening to her mother's jazz record collection and vintage pop songs on the radio. She began singing and playing piano professionally in her teens, and at age 21, signed with Blue Note Records.
In 2001, just one year before the release of her debut album Come Away With Me, Jones collaborated with guitarist Charlie Hunter on two tracks for Hunter's album Songs From The Analog Playground. One of those tracks, Bryan Ferry's More Than This, is also featured on the new Capitol compilation Lady Sings The Blues.