Marlene Dietrich

American Songs in German for the OSS

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The story behind this 10" LP, American Songs in German for the OSS, involves World War II and propaganda, and the postwar recording boom. Marlene Dietrich had very early on turned her back on her native Germany, not only taking American citizenship but actively supporting the American war effort when the United States entered World War II, both publicly and behind the scenes. As part of the latter effort, she joined the Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Service (aka the OSS, precursor to the CIA) in recording American songs in German, to be heard by audiences on the other side of the war as a way of reaching them. The recordings ended up, as were most such efforts, buried in the mountains of by-products of the war effort in Washington, but luckily Dietrich had her own copies, and was able to play them for Mitch Miller, then the head of A&R for Columbia Records, who liked what he heard enough to commission new recordings of the same songs by Dietrich. With Jimmy Carroll conducting the orchestra, she runs through "Lilli Marlene," "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore," "Taking a Chance on Love," "Miss Otis Regrets," and four more popular standards of the early '40s. Still in top form at the time as a singer and entertainer, and undoubtedly getting more sonically impressive results here than she would have on the disc-based recordings for the government a decade earlier, the material is a unique body of music in Dietrich's output, and well-worth a listen for anyone absorbed in her mystique.