- By Ken Werther
- Photo Courtesy of the Artist
The incomparable Barbara Cook, a revered Broadway star known and loved for her vocal agility, wide range, warm sound, and emotive musical interpretations, passed away on August 8 at the age of 89. At the time of her death, Cook was widely recognized as one of the premiere performers of musical theatre songs and standards. Her subtle and sensitive renditions of American popular songs continued to earn high praise right up until she reluctantly retired earlier this year. I saw her perform when she was 85 years old, and it was unforgettable.
Cook first came to prominence in the original Broadway casts of Plain and Fancy (1955), Candide (1956), and The Music Man (1957), for which she won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Marian the Librarian opposite Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill. She continued performing mostly in theatre until 1975, when she gave her first ever solo concert (at Carnegie Hall) and began a whole new career as a cabaret and concert singer, wowing audiences and leaving critics searching for new superlatives. Between that time and her death, she recorded 22 solo albums and appeared on 18 others.
Over the years, I was lucky enough to see Barbara Cook perform several different times and each concert was simply bliss. Her extraordinary and distinguished career was the stuff of which legends are made. She will never be forgotten.