One of the greatest American singers of the 20th Century, Mel Tormé (1925-1999) was gifted with a beautiful singing voice and faultless pitch from the start, and began his singing career in 1929 at the age of four. By the time he reached 13 he was writing songs – he would end up writing hundreds over the course of his career, including ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)’, ‘Born To Be Blue’ and ‘A Stranger In Town’ – and also found success as a theatrical and movie actor, as well as a TV show host.
The Great American Songbook was Tormé’s bible, and no singer ever brought these songs to life with a greater combination of dizzying musicianship and dramatic flair.
He never captured mainstream audiences like Sinatra, nor did MTV enshrine him as a grand old hipster like Tony Bennett, but he was every inch a ‘cat’, a virtually unrivalled virtuoso who moved effortlessly from glorious pop balladeering to quicksilver scat improvisations.
He bragged that he knew more than 5,000 songs, that he was a living, breathing encyclopaedia of American popular music.