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Barbara Cook Obituary

10/25/1927 - 8/8/2017| Visit Guest Book
Barbara Cook (NBC / Getty)
Barbara Cook (NBC / Getty)
Barbara Cook, a singer and actress who won a Tony Award for her role in the 1957 Broadway musical “The Music Man,” died Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, according to multiple news sources. She was 89.

Cook also was known best for starring in two other ‘50s Broadway musicals, “Plain and Fancy” in 1955 and “Candide” the following year.

A soprano with a pure tone and a wide vocal range, Cook entertained theater audiences over the course of a seven-decade career.

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She was born Oct. 25, 1927, in Atlanta. Her father, Charles Bunyan, sold hats on the road and her mother, the former Nell Harwell, worked as a telephone operator for the Southern Bell Telephone Co. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she lived alone with her mother after her only sibling died.

After high school, Cook worked for several years as a typist.

A trip to New York City in 1948 inspired Cook to stay there and make a career change to acting and singing. She sang in clubs and resorts until 1951, when she debuted on Broadway as Sandy in the musical “Flahooley.”

She went on to star in Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 operetta, “Candide,” singing one of her most famous songs, “Glitter and Be Gay.”

In a 2016 interview with NPR to publicize her memoir, “Then and Now,” Cook said singing "Glitter and Be Gay" wasn’t fun at first.

“It was just a chore,” she told the interviewer. "And of course they had chosen me for the role because I didn’t make it look like a chore, you know? And it was harder and harder to do, and I got to the point where I was afraid to get to the theater, afraid to start the song, and I wasn’t having fun.”

Later, she employed self-hypnosis after reading about the subject in Pageant magazine.

“So I went back to my room, which I usually did to take my nap and get ready for the evening’s performance. And I thought, well, I’m just going to try this. ... And so I told myself that I couldn’t wait to get to the theater. I couldn’t wait to get on stage to sing this song. And I gave myself all kinds of very specific instructions that when, you know - when you put your hand on the stage door, you’re going to feel great energy and a great desire to go on stage and sing this song, so forth and so forth.

“I gave myself very, very good instructions. And I did it. And for the first time, I had a breakthrough so that I was able to really have fun with the song. And it actually worked for me.”

Other roles that helped to cement her stardom included her Tony Award-winning role as Marian the librarian in 1957’s “The Music Man” and her portrayal of Amalia Balash in the 1962 musical “She Loves Me.”

Dozens of credits would follow over the decades including “Show Boat” (1966), “The Grass Harp” (1971), “Carrie” (1988), “The King and I” (1996), “Something Good: A Broadway Salute to Richard Rodgers on His 100th Birthday” (2002), “Barbara Cook’s Broadway” (2004), and “Sondheim on Sondheim” (2010).

She was hailed in 2011 as one of the Kennedy Center Honors recipients.

Cook had one marriage, to acting instructor David LeGrant, that ended in divorce, in 1965. LeGrant died in 2011. They had one son, Adam, who survives her.

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Published in The New York Times on August 9, 2017
COOK--Barbara. The members of The Lotos Club mourn the loss of their distinguished colleague and friend, Barbara Cook, and send condolences to her family. Read Obituary
Published in The New York Times on August 10, 2017
COOK--Barbara. Dear Barbara: The heavens are so fortunate as they now have a truly heavenly voice and a heavenly being to lead the Lord's choir. Somewhere in your Georgia church singing roots, you... Read Obituary
Published online on August 8, 2017 courtesy of
Barbara Cook, a singer and actress who won a Tony Award for her role in the 1957 Broadway musical "The Music Man," died Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, according to multiple news sources. She was 89. For full... Read Obituary

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