Damita Jo

The Very Best of Damita Jo

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In 1997, the Collectables reissue label released a 47-minute sampling of chestnuts by pop singer Damita Jo De Blanc, whose best moments on record place her in league with Della Reese, Dakota Staton, Diahann Carroll, and the young Nancy Wilson. In addition to the disarmingly honest "I Had Someone Else Before I Had You (And I'll Have Someone After You've Gone)", this handy package includes her cover of Larry Darnell's "I'll Get Along Somehow" and the Everly Brothers hit "Bye Bye Love." Damita Jo's lightning-quick delivery on "Love Is Here to Stay" is valuable evidence of her skill as a jazz singer. Her earliest known recording, in fact, was made at a live jam session with Wardell Gray and a band of West Coast beboppers back in 1950. Her powerful and commanding presence on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" reveals the direct influence of Dinah Washington. Damita Jo attracted attention with her answer songs "I'll Be There" and "I'll Save the Last Dance for You." Although capable of sustaining sentimental airs like Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away," she clearly preferred punchy theatrical numbers and traditional fare like "Alice Blue Gown" and "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe." She was usually accompanied by big bands or contemporary studio groups capable of providing the kind of backup which was deemed conducive to commercial airplay. After variable success as a pop singer in the '60s, Damita Jo became a comedienne during the following decade, and worked with Redd Foxx. Beginning in the mid-'80s, she abandoned secular music and became a gospel singer, passing away on December 25, 1998 at the age of 68. In 2004, Janet Jackson (whose middle name is Damita Jo) titled her eighth studio album Damita Jo, and made the statement that "Damita Jo is one of the characters that lives inside of me."

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