Born: Youngstown, Ohio, 27 July 1949
Best-selling album since 1990: Baby I'm Yours (1992)
Often billed as the "Stradivarius Voice" in honor of the famous Italian violin, Maureen McGovern is renowned for her perfect pitch, warm phrasing, and vocal range spanning several octaves. Achieving fame in the early 1970s for her hit recordings from popular Hollywood movies, McGovern reinvented herself during the mid-1980s, building her reputation as a first-class interpreter of popular songs. Having earned critical praise for her memorable roles in Broadway musicals, McGovern in the 1990s recorded sensitive tributes to famed composers such as George Gershwin and Harold Arlen. Resisting the trend in contemporary music for synthesized arrangements, McGovern favors piano and orchestral backings that showcase the lush purity of her voice.
As a child McGovern was heavily influenced by the great pop vocalists of the twentieth century, particularly Broadway and recording star Barbra Streisand. Upon graduation from high school in 1967, McGovern worked as a secretary by day while performing folk music in the evenings. In the early 1970s her activity as a rock performer in hotels and clubs brought her to the attention of 20th Century Fox Records, who signed her to a recording contract in 1972. At 20th Century Fox McGovern recorded her most famous song, "The Morning After" (1972), a number one pop hit featured in the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure, a tale of passengers trapped on a capsizing ocean liner. Dubbed by press as the "disaster queen" after recording songs for similar films such as The Towering Inferno (1974) and Gold (1975), McGovern strove to overcome such limitations and began pursuing roles on the Broadway stage. In 1981 she made her Broadway debut in a revival of the classic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, before winning starring roles in the musicals Nine (1982) and The Threepenny Opera (1989).
By the late 1980s and early 1990s McGovern had fashioned a career as a stylish, sophisticated interpreter of songs by legendary twentieth-century composers such as Arlen and Gershwin. Her astute rhythmic sense and flexible voice, which moves effortlessly from a high coloratura down to a rich, smoky lower register, enliven Naughty Baby (1989), a fine collection of Gershwin material. Switching artistic gears, McGovern released Baby I'm Yours (1992), an album of pop and R&B songs from the 1950s and 1960s. Rather than recreating the originals, McGovern reinterprets classic numbers such as "Sincerely" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart" using her own confident style. "It's All in the Game," a song associated with 1950s R&B and pop group the Platters, becomes in McGovern's hands an adult testimonial to life's joys and hardships.
By the end of the 1990s McGovern had recorded two further albums of pop standards, Out of This World (1996), a tribute to songwriter Arlen, and The Music Never Ends (1997), a celebration of the lyrics of writers Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Reissued in 2003 with additional songs, the latter album is a strong example of McGovern's technical agility. On "The Windmills of Your Mind," she navigates the winding, classically influenced melody with assured control of timing and mood. During this period McGovern became active in charitable causes, lending her support to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and founding Works of Heart, an organization that promotes music as therapy for those suffering from illness.
Supporting her vast talent with resilience and tenacity, McGovern reshaped her career in the 1980s, achieving an artistic rebirth through her elegant treatments of pop standards. Releasing albums notable for their rich sound and intelligent song selection, McGovern maintained her reputation in the 1990s and 2000s as a versatile, uncompromising stylist.
The Morning After (20th Century Fox, 1973); Naughty Baby (CBS, 1989); Baby I'm Yours (RCA, 1992); Out of This World (Sterling, 1996); Music Never Ends (Sterling, 1997; Fynsworth Alley, 2003); Pleasure of His Company (Sterling, 1998).
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