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Julie Wilson Sings the Gershwin Songbook

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Album Review

Julie Wilson returns to her songbook series of albums devoted to classic songwriters with this set of music by George and Ira Gershwin. In a sense, the obvious question is why she hasn't done them before. But it also might be suggested that their work, full of lightly witty romantic sentiments for sophisticated young stage and film characters of the 1920s and ‘30s, is not ideally suited to her seen-it-all persona. She makes use of that contrast, however. If Wilson is a 74-year-old singing "Someone to Watch Over Me," a song written for a starry-eyed flapper of the Prohibition Era longingly idealizing a man she barely knows, she certainly doesn't sing it as that flapper would. She sings wistfully, as if she were remembering a song from long ago that is full of feelings she once had. When she turns to "But Not for Me," sandwiched in a medley between the more positive "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," she gives her interpretation a bitter, angry edge; she isn't a young woman lamenting that love songs don't apply to her just yet, she is an older woman despairing that they never will. On the other hand, she uses her lineage to frankly express lusty irreverence in a medley devoted to classical references, mixing "The Lorelei," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "Sam and Delilah." As usual, she is abetted by her piano accompanist, William Roy, who not only supplies all the instrumental support but also chimes in as a duet partner here and there. The inventiveness with which they address some of the lesser-known Gershwin songs, particularly "Treat Me Rough" and "Isn't It a Pity?," as well as the relatively unfamiliar introductory verses of well-known numbers, suggests they might have leaned more in that direction, rather than trying to recontextualize the standards. But this is a fresh look at Gershwin music, filtered through a different sensibility, valid yet often surprising.


Born: 21 October 1924 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Cabaret singer and musical theater star Julie Wilson was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1924, the daughter of Russell Wilson, a coal salesman, and Emily Bennett Wilson, who became a hairdresser. She displayed an interest in theater and music in her youth and began singing with local bands at the age of 14. She enrolled at Omaha University, majoring in drama with a minor in music, but dropped out when she successfully auditioned to replace an ailing performer in a road tour of the musical revue Earl...
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Julie Wilson Sings the Gershwin Songbook, Julie Wilson
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