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Helen Forrest
Helen Forrest
July 11, 1999
Age 82

Heart Failure 
OBITUARY, BIOGRAPHY, LINKS

 

 

 

 

 



 

 
 
 
 
 

OBITUARY 


NY TIMES

 
     Helen 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  Hampton.  

          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.  

Reuters:
 
  Big 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 War II.  

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 friends.  

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 You Are.''  

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. 

 
Helen Forrest
  

          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 radio show.  

          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 said.

          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.

 

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All-Music Guide
 
One of the more popular big band era singers, a performer that some might not consider a jazz vocalist, but one with exceptional ability to project lyrics and also an excellent interpreter. Forrest used several names early in her career, among them The Blue Lady and Bonnie Blue. She began singing in her brother's band in Washington, D.C., then was featured in Artie Shaw's band after Billie Holiday left in 1938. Forrest joined Benny Goodman when Shaw disbanded in 1939, staying until 1941. She recorded with Nat King Cole's trio and Lionel Hampton in 1940, then began to score hits working with the Harry James orchestra. During the early '40s, she had string of successes. Later she teamed with Dick Haymes on his radio show and on six duets that were big hits. Forrest cut back her activity in the '50s, then sang with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra led by Sam Donahue in the early '60s. She continued to work on the club circut in the '70s and '80s, making a new album for Stash in 1983. -- Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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