Marilyn Monroe

Essential Recordings

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There has long been a theory proffered by revisionist historians that Marilyn Monroe -- despite her worldwide icon status -- couldn't sing a lick. This single-disc collection puts the lie to that misguided theory in a most delightful fashion. Collecting up the best of her soundtrack work in various movie musicals, stray singles, TV appearances and a couple of live shows, this shows that Monroe had all the basic skills -- good pitch, range and an ability to read a lyric -- needed to put a song over and could do it as well as most of the thrushes on the hit parade during that timeframe. Of course, it also helped that she loaded these tunes with personality to spare (and she was Marilyn Monroe), but it's a long way from Betty Booping her way through "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in Some Like It Hot to the dead straight reading of "River of No Return." She duets with Jane Russell on "Bye Bye Baby" from an old Jack Benny Show appearance and "A Little Girl From Little Rock" and "When Love Goes Wrong" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But Marilyn's live for-the-boys-in-Korea version of "Bye Bye Baby," her 1954 studio session featuring "Lazy" and "A Fine Romance" and "Kiss" from Niagara show that she definitely had a way with a ballad. The disc closes with Marilyn's breathy and infamous version of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to JFK; it's more of a high point for Marilyn the icon than part of her case as a singer, but a nice closer nonetheless.

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