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Sassy Sarah Vaughan

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Sassy Sarah Vaughan

One of the great legends of vocal jazz, Sarah Vaughan, was born 90 years ago today. Nicknamed "Sassy" for her personality and "The Divine One" for her voice, she had a singing style like none other: rich and full, ranging from soprano to baritone, soaring from lush lows to delicate highs. Her voice inspired critics and fellow musicians to speak in superlatives:

    * Mel Torme said she had "the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field."

     * Critic John S. Wilson said she possessed "what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz."

     * Jazz commentator Scott Yanow dubbed it "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century."

     * Critic Gary Giddins rhapsodized: "Her voice had wings: luscious and tensile, disciplined and nuanced, it was as thick as cognac, yet soared off the beaten path like an instrumental solo ... that her voice was a four-octave muscle of infinite flexibility made her disarming shtick all the more ironic."

     * And Frank Sinatra stated his jealousy, plain and simple: "Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor."

The list of praise and honors for Vaughan goes on and on, including a double entry into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The special recognition, given to recordings that are at least 25 years old and have "qualitative or historical significance," was bestowed on Vaughan's single "If You Could See Me Now" and her album Sarah Vaughan With Clifford Brown. We're celebrating Vaughan's uniquely beautiful voice by listening to the two recordings:

"If You Could See Me Now," a 1946 single and one of Vaughan's signature songs


"Lullaby of Birdland," the first track from the 1954 album Sarah Vaughan With Clifford Brown


Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.