On August 5th 1962, today 55 years ago, Marilyn Monroe passed away. What does she have to do with my blog? The subtitle being ‘My life with music’, does Monroe have anything to do with the world of music? Yes, she most certainly does!
But does that go beyond the over familiar Happy Birthday, Mr. President, which she sang just over 2.5 months prior to her death, at President John F. Kennedy birthday on May 19th 1962? As was the case with her acting, Monroe’s vocals were (seriously) appreciated after she was long gone. One thing is obviously clear though: she took music seriously. She regularly had singing lessons and she sang in many movies.
On July 27th 1953 the Korean war was ended. Well, not actually ended, an armistice was agreed upon (officially, North and South Korea are still at war). During the Korean War, American stars (such as comedian Bob Hope) were occasionally flown into Korea to entertain the troops and maintain their morale. In 1953 Marilyn Monroe was asked if she would be willing to perform for the troops. After her marriage to Joe DiMaggio on January 14th 1954, their honeymoon took them to Japan. After a few weeks together, Monroe flew to (South-)Korea, without DiMaggio.
Once she set foot on Korean soil, she traveled all over the place in just 4 days, performing 10 (!) shows to an estimated amount of over 100,000 military personnel, close to the front-line (which was still deemed dangerous at the time). During her performances she sang songs from her movies. A nice side-effect for Monroe was, as she was doing this, she could overcome some of her stage-fright.
The troops were so excited that many of them took their seats over 8 hours in advance. Remarkable, given the overall temperatures, which varied from -1 to 0 degrees Celcius. Many in the audience were wrapped in blankets, with Monroe performing in a Summer dress.
Her companions were extremely enthusiastic: “She’s great, she’s gorgeous, but she’s even nicer than she’s gorgeous”. Monroe performed with a band (consisting of eleven military) that was named after the song Anything Goes for the occasion. Her pianist, Albert Guastafeste, was surprised at her modesty: ”Someone ought to go up to her and tell her she is Marilyn Monroe. She doesn’t seem to realize it. When you make a goof she tells you she’s sorry. When she goofs, she apologizes to me!”.
During her tour she would also make short stops at hospitals with wounded military, to talk, shake hands, give autographs, posing with anyone who desired so. Although the tour exhausted her and she got a mild pneumonia out of it, she later told her friend Amy Greene that the Korean tour was one of the highlights of her entire career.
A special mention has to be made regarding Marilyn Monroe’s connection to Ella Fitzgerald. In the (19)50’s Mocambo was one of the most popular venues in Hollywood. In 1943 Frank Sinatra had his Los Angeles debut there. The audience frequently hosted celebrities like Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Lana Turner. Ella Fitzgerald wasn’t allowed to play there for the color of her skin. Until one of her biggest fans placed a phone-call.
Fitzgerald: “I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it”.
The influence was two-ways though. Years before Monroe placed the call, Monroe studied the Ella Fitzgerald recordings. According to legend, Monroe got the assignment to listen to all of Fitzgerald’s Gershwin recordings 100 times in a row. Her serious study helped Monroe to become a fine singer. But it all was nothing compared to her sex-symbol status and, maybe even more so, her Happy Birthday, Mr. President performance.
CD: My Heart Belongs To Daddy
In 1989 I bought the CD My Heart Belongs To Daddy, a compilation-album containing songs sung by Monroe, among which:
- My Heart Belongs To Daddy (7)
- Bye Bye Baby (3)
- Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (3)
- Lazy (5)
- Every Baby Needs A Da-da-daddy (1)
- Happy Birthday (8)
- Kiss 2
- When Love Goes Wrong (Nothing Goes Right) (3)
- One Silver Dollar (4)
- I’m Through With Love (6)
- You’d Be Surprised (5)
- The River Of No Return (4)
- Anyone Can See I Love You (1)
- I Wanna Be Loved By You (6)
|(1)||Ladies Of The Chorus||1948|
|(3)||Gentlemen Prefer Blondes||1953|
|(4)||River Of No Return||1953|
|(5)||There’s No Business Like Show Business||1954|
|(6)||Some Like It Hot||1959|
|(7)||Let’s Make Love||1960|
Inspiration – music
Marilyn Monroe has inspired countless songs and artists. For me personally the most well-known and, from a nostalgic point of view, most valued is probably Elton John’s Candle In The Wind. The song is from 1973 and I suspect I heard it that year for the first time. I probably heard the name Marilyn Monroe for the first time as well.
But the list is endless. A few of the songs, for which Monroe was an inspiration, or gets mentioned in, are:
- Gene Vincent – I Got A Baby (1958)
- The Kinks – Celluloid Heroes & John Lennon – We´re All Water (1972)
- Madonna – Vogue (1990)
- Michael Jackson – Tabloid Junkie (1995)
- Bryan Ferry – Goddess Of Love (2002)
- Grinderman – Palaces Of Montezuma (2010)
- Pharrell Williams – Marilyn Monroe (2014)
Inspiration – art
In August of 1962 Andy Warhol started with a new technique for the first time, silkscreens. One of the first things to occur that month was the death of Marilyn Monroe. So Warhol decided “to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns”. He used a 1953 publicity photo for the movie Niagara, shot by Gene Korman, as a reference.
Marilyn Monroe ultimately turned out to be an ageless style icon. Her image has been used on nearly every product known to man. One of which is worth mentioning is that her image was part of the album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.
Inspiration – business
Many of her 30 movies have become classics. She has been a role model for many women, including Madonna. Not just by copying Monroe’s famous Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend scene in her own video to Material Girl, but also business-wise. Monroe founded her own production company (Marilyn Monroe Productions) as early as December 1954 (about which she remarked “I feel wonderful. I’m incorporated”). An important and inspiring event: a woman going against the (male dominated) film studios and taking charge of her own (professional) destiny.
What so you think about Marilyn Monroe, and her musical career in particular? Let me know!
Marilyn Monroe in New York 1955 image: americanpast.blogspot.nl
Marilyn Monroe in Korea 1954 & Marilyn Monroe in Korea 1954 – uniform images: mashable.com
Marilyn Monroe signature image: marilynmonroe.com
Marilyn Monroe & Ella Fitzgerald image: knkx.org
Marilyn Monroe – My Heart Belongs To Daddy image: discogs.com
Marilyn Monroe – I Wanna Be Loved By You (single) image: 45cat.com
Marilyn Monroe in de film Niagara 1953 image: saatchiart.com
Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe image: pinterest.com
Marilyn Monroe 1953 image: webexhibits.org
Marilyn Monroe – Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend image: donaldsweblog.blogspot.com