Forrest, Singer During the Big Band Era, Dies at 82
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Helen Forrest, the big-band singer whose dreamy
hits with the Harry James orchestra
distilled the nostalgic spirit of World War II pop,
died on Sunday at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Los
Angeles. She was 82.
The cause was congestive heart failure, The Associated Press reported. Known
as "the voice of the name bands," Ms. Forrest became a leading vocalist in 1938
when she replaced Billie Holiday as the singer with Artie Shaw's orchestra. She also worked with Benny Goodman (1939-41)
and James (1941-43) before going solo in 1944. In 1940 Ms. Forrest,
who was white, broke precedent to record a single ("I Don't Stand a
Ghost of a Chance With You") with the black band leader Lionel
Ms. Forrest's recordings with Shaw included "Any Old Time," "I'm in
Love With the Honorable So and So," "They Say," "Thanks for
Everything" and "All the Things You Are." Among her recordings with
Goodman were "The Man I Love," "Taking a Chance on Love" and
"More Than You Know."
In 1941 she reached a peak of popularity with James, singing the No. 1
wartime hits "I've Heard That Song Before," "I Don't Want to Walk
Without You" and her signature song, "I Had the Craziest Dream" (the title
of her 1982 autobiography).
Born Helen Fogel in Atlantic City, Ms. Forrest performed regularly as a young girl on the New York City radio station WNEW. That led to a job on CBS Radio singing with the trumpeter Bunny Berigan. Shaw heard her one night at the Madrillon Club in Washington and invited her to replace
Holiday, who, weary of racial indignities suffered on the road, had
decided to quit the band.
Ms. Forrest recorded 38 singles for Shaw, and when he briefly disbanded
his orchestra in 1939, she moved to Goodman's band, which was
not known for being hospitable to vocalists.
Quitting in 1941, she got in touch with James, who gave her a larger-than-usual
role in his band and even had his arrangers beef up the orchestrations
with violins. The result was a creamy voice-and-trumpet sound,
at once spunky and wistful, that captured the wartime longing of women
separated from their husbands.
Ms. Forrest's relationship with James, which was romantic as well as professional, disintegrated when he met Betty Grable, whom he later married,
while making the movie "Springtime in the Rockies."
Married and divorced three times, Ms. Forrest is survived by a son, Forrest Feinman.
Going solo in 1944, Ms. Forrest teamed up with the crooner Dick Haymes to record a series of Top 10 duets that included "Long Ago and Far
Away," "It Had to Be You," "Together," "I'll Buy That Dream," "Some
Sunday Morning," "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and "Oh! What
it Seemed to Be."
In addition to recording and touring, Ms. Forrest made several film shorts
with Shaw and appeared in several features with James, including
"Private Buckaroo" (in which she sang "You Made Me Love You"),
"Bathing Beauty" and "Best Foot Forward."
As the big band era waned, she sang in supper clubs and on the radio, and from 1944 to 1948 she and Haymes starred together in a popular
weekly radio show. But unlike Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Peggy Lee and
other big-band singers who developed solo careers in the late 40's and
50's, Ms. Forrest was unable to make the transition, and after the 1950's
remained a much-loved vocal touchstone to an earlier era.
In 1964 she toured the United States with Frank Sinatra Jr. and the Tommy
Dorsey Orchestra, and in the late 60's she was reunited with James for an album. A decade later, she joined James, Haymes, the Pied Pipers
and the Ink Spots in a touring nostalgia revue, "The Big Broadcast of
1944." Her last album was released on the Stash label in 1983.
Band Singer Helen Forrest Dead At 82
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
Jazz vocalist Helen Forrest, who sang for such
heavyweights as Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James
during the big-band era of the 1930s and '40s, has died at age 82,
her publicist said Monday.
Forrest died Sunday of congestive heart failure
at the Motion Picture Country Home and
Hospital in suburban Woodland Hills, publicist Alan Eichler said. She had been hospitalized with pneumonia since April 13, the
day after her birthday.
Among her best-known songs were wartime hits
with the James band, including ``I've
Heard That Song Before,'' Forrest's signature song
``I Had the Craziest Dream'' and ``I Don't Want to Walk Without
You,'' which became an anthem for women left alone during World
Overall, she recorded more than 500 songs during
a career that stretched through the
1980s. Along the way she shared the bandstand
with jazz legend Billie Holiday, crossed the color barrier to
record ``Ghost of a Chance'' with Lionel Hampton and the Nat ``King'' Cole trio and teamed with baritone crooner Dick Haymes for a series
hit recordings and a long-running radio show.
``She's widely acknowledged as being not just
the most famous of the big-band vocalists, but the best of that era,'' Eichler said.
Especially good with a ballad, Forrest was known
for her warm, melodic style and nuanced
interpretation of lyrics. Describing her own style,
she once told Look Magazine, ``I try to sing so a guy can picture
soft lights and his girl.''
Forrest also appeared in several movies with
James, with whom she was having a
secret romance. They shared screen credits in such films
as ``Private Buckaroo,'' ``Bathing Beauty'' and ''Best Foot Forward.''
But their affair ended after James met and fell in love with film star Betty Grable while all three were making the 1942 picture ``Springtime in the Rockies.'' James and Grable ultimately married, and
Forrest left the James band to pursue a solo career.
Born Helen Fogel in Atlantic City, N.J., Forrest had her first experience
behind a microphone at age 10, when she was coaxed into
singing a tune with her brother's band at a dance marathon. She later
performed in high school musicals and got her professional start on
the radio in New York City, where she sang with trumpeter Bunny Berigan's Blue Boys on CBS.
Forrest's big break came when
clarinetist-bandleader Artie Shaw heard
her perform and offered her a job. In the summer of 1938, she joined
his band as a co-vocalist with Billie Holiday, with whom she became
Forrest stayed on with the Shaw orchestra after
Holiday -- weary of the racism she
endured on the road as the only black performer in an otherwise
all-white band -- quit the band to start a solo career. By the
time Shaw broke up the band in 1939, Forrest had recorded nearly
40 singles with him, including ``Any Old Time'' and ``All The Things
Forrest next segued onto the bandstand of
another famed clarinet-playing
bandleader, Benny Goodman, with whom she recorded
the minor hit ``The Man I Love.''
In 1941, Forrest joined James' orchestra, where
she recorded her biggest hits and
flourished as an artist, in part because her signing
style blended well with James' lush approach to ballads. The famed trumpeter
built arrangements around Forrest and featured her as a star
rather than as just another band soloist.
At the peak of her career, Forrest was widely
considered the finest white vocalist of
her day, until Frank Sinatra surged to fame in front of
Tommy Dorsey's orchestra.
Beyond the big-band era, Forrest performed in
supper clubs, on radio and in the
studio, with her last album released in 1983 by Stash Records.
She continued to sing until rheumatoid arthritis
began to affect her vocal chords in the
early '90s, and one of her last performances was at
the Society of Singers' Salute to Frank Sinatra for his 75th birthday
in December 1990.
Married and divorced three times, Forrest is
survived by her only son, Michael Forrest Feinman.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Helen Forrest, who sang with big
bands from Artie Shaw to Benny Goodman,
died Sunday of heart failure. She was 82.
Ms. Forrest was ``the most famous of all the big band singers'' and recorded more than 500 songs, said Alan Eichler, her publicist.
Among her best-known recordings were ``All the Things You Are,'' with Shaw;
``The Man I Love,'' with Goodman and ``I Don't Want to Walk Without
You'' and ``I Had the Craziest Dream,'' with Harry James.
She also teamed with Dick Haymes on popular recordings and a long-running
Ms. Forrest -- born Helen Fogel in Atlantic City, N.J. -- also appeared in
the 1940s films ``Private Buckaroo,'' ``Bathing Beauty,'' ``Springtime in
the Rockies,'' and ``Best Foot Forward.''
In 1940, she gained some notoriety for recording with Lionel Hampton's band.
``Back then, for a white singer to record with a black orchestra was very unusual,'' Eichler
Ms. Forrest also made some waves when she replaced Billie Holliday as the
vocalist for Shaw in 1938.
For a while before Ms. Holliday left to start a solo career, both women sang
for the band and took their places on the bandstand. When some theater
operators required the black singer to stay off stage until performance
time, Ms. Forrest announced she would do the same.
``She wanted Billie to have the same rights she had,'' Eichler said.