Barbara Cook Tony Award-Winning
Actress / Singer Dies At 89
Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure, surrounded by friends and family at her home in Manhattan, according to her publicist. In the course of her years as Broadway’s leading ingénue Cook was lauded for her excellent lyric soprano voice. She was particularly admired for her vocal agility, large range, warm sound, and emotive interpretations.
As she aged her voice got on a darker quality, even in her head voice, that was less prominent in her junior. At the time of her death, Cook was widely recognized as one of the “premier interpreters” of musical movie theatre songs and standards, in particular the songs of composer Stephen Sondheim. Her subtle and sensitive understanding of American popular music continued to earn high praise even into the woman eighties. She was known as an honouree at the 2011 Kennedy Center Recognizes.
The marquees of Broadway theatres will be dimmed Wednesday, August 9th at exactly 7:45pm for one minute, in memory of Barbara Cook
Losing My Mind – Barbara Cook – Follies
Barbara Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Charles Bunyan, a traveling hat salesman, and Nell (Harwell) Cook, an operator for Southern Bell. Her parents divorced when she was a child and, after her only sister died of whooping cough, Barbara lived alone with her mother.
She later described their relationship as “so close, too close. I slept with my mother until I came to New York. Slept in the same bed with her. That’s just, it’s wrong. But to me, it was the norm.
As far as she was concerned, we were one person.” Though Barbara began singing at an early age, at the Elks Club and to her father over the phone, she spent three years after graduating from high school working as a typist.
While visiting Manhattan in 1948 with her mother, Cook decided to stay and try to find work as an actress. She began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950.
She made her Broadway debut a year later, as Sandy in the short-lived 1951 musical Flahooley. She landed another role quickly, portraying Ado Annie in the 1951 City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and stayed with the production when it went on its national tour the following year.
Barbara Cook – Kennedy Center Honours – Music Tributes
Barbara Cook, whose performance as Marian, the lonely librarian who falls for the huckster musical instruments salesman “Professor” Harold Hill played by Robert Preston in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man endeared her to generations of Broadway audiences beginning in the 1950s