Monday, June 19, 2017

Patty Duke sings BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

    Her real first name was Anna. She became famous as the lovable and talented Patty Duke (Dec 14, 1946 · Mar 29, 2016). She was one of the few child/teen stars to excel in both drama and comedy; the stage and film classic “The Miracle Worker,” and then the hit sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show.” 

    You can find out about her via the autobiographies, “Call me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness.” The woman had a pretty bizarre career as a film actress as she moved from child (“Miracle Worker” 1962) to teen (“Billie” 1965) to troubled young adult (“Valley of the Dolls” 1967 and “Me Natalie 1969).  

      There was a lot of competition for her when she reached her 40's and beyond, and there have always been few roles for middle-aged women. Duke worked sporadically in her chosen profession; perhaps a combination of her problems off screen, and the difficulties of being remembered by casting agents who had a fixed image of her as a child star.  She made only two films in the 70’s, three in the 80’s (although you might include the made-for-TV film "Best Kept Secrets") and two in the 90’s. Anyone remember “Bigger Than the Sky” in 2005 or “Four Children of Tander Welch” in 2008?   

    While she was a teen star on tv and in the film "Billie," Patty also mounted a singing career.  Some of the obscure albums she made back in the mid-60's are now back in print. That’s quite an achievement for someone who managed only one Top 10 hit. Her album of folks songs is especially interesting, as Patty sounded just like any “average girl” who might pick up a guitar and sing "the music of the people." Folk music was sing-along music, so did a perfect voice matter? Bob Dylan said no. In bedrooms across the world, Patty-types were strumming guitars and trying to emote the “new music,” which seemed so much more important than love songs. 

    Patty’s first attempt to cross over and add “singer” to her TV star and movie star credits, was “Don’t Just Stand There.” Though a Top 10 in August of 1965, few seem to know it. It's a pretty credible attempt at stepping into Lesley Gore territory. Did it take that much to be a pop star back then? You didn’t need a vocoder, just a good echo chamber. Ask Fabian. It seemed every other month, some actress (like Shelley Fabares) or daughter of a star (Melinda Marx comes to mind) stepped into a booth and managed to stay on key while surrounded by drums and brass while a sly music producer manipulated the strings. Patty just missed the Top 20 with
"Say Something Funny," in the fall of 1965 and had a song outside the Top 50 with "Whenever He Holds You," which was a cover of a Bobby Goldsboro song. Kind of a surprise is that despite failing chart action, Duke was able to put out albums, including the obscure one that collected the era's best folk songs.  

    An interesting thing about Patty Duke the vocalist, is that she sounds exactly like Patty Duke. This isn’t always the case. First off, a lot of times an actress is dubbed in movies. You don’t even know it, because you figure a singing voice is not going to be like a speaking voice. It seems to take a different set of vocal cords to stay on key. The most glaring examples back then were Jim Nabors and Frank Fontaine, or even Bob Dylan when he suddenly exuded a gooey baritone for “Nashville Skyline.” But Patty Duke did sound like herself, for better or worse. Maybe the latter, considering the sales of those last albums she did.  

    But now that she’s gone, and under such odd and tragic circumstances, people want a little bit more of what they once ignored: Patty Duke, the singer.  

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

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