Sarah Lois Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990)

Day 11, Black History Month: Sassy, the Divine one, Sailor
March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990

First time meetings, with some people, are never forgettable. And so, I will try to describe the first time I was personally introduced to Ms. Sarah Vaughan.

Between 1975 and 1990, I must have seen Sarah Vaughan perform live a minimum 15 times. I saw her at Brooklyn College with a full orchestra; a Sunday night on Fire Island in Cherry Grove with her trio. ( I remember her looking down from the balcony overlooking the disco/nightclub entrance—I waved to her, she smiled and waved back.); at Carnegie Hall with a full orchestra; at a small club (The Grand Finale) on West 73rd Street (where I was given the photo); the last time, at the Blue Note a few months before her death.

Her last performance at the Blue Note was particularly memorable because of its brevity. I had brought a guest with me from Germany to see her. Before her performance, I had raved and raved about Ms. Vaughan being “The finest singer to have ever lived”. That evening, Ms. Vaughan sang for not more than 45 minutes—no encore. The brief performance was quite a disappointment. A few months later Ms. Vaughan was gone.

I learned of Ms. Vaughan’s death as I read the a morning newspaper on an airplane returning from a trip to Germany. It was the final day for the traditional viewing of a loved one. My plane arrived early morning, and, by early afternoon I was standing on a long line waiting to view Ms. Vaughan. At Mount Zion Baptist Church at 208 Broadway in Newark, New Jersey, Ms. Vaughan laid in an opened casket, in full view, for all to see.

The circumstances surrounding the photo: It was given to me by Ms. Vaughan after a performance at a small Jazz Club in a Hotel on West 73rd St, NYC. (I think it was The Grand Finale. The approximate date of the photo must have been in 1979.) A public relations representative for Ms. Vaughan asked me if I would like to personally meet Ms. Vaughan. Of course my response nothing less than an emphatic “Yes”. I was led to a day room where Ms. Vaughan was sitting. We approached Ms. Vaughan, the PR Representative said “Ms. Vaughan, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Bunn. He is the publisher of Routes Magazine. We shook hands and she responded, as I remember, “Hello.” I felt a bit nervous and began to heap praise on how much her music meant to me; about where and when I had seen her; and started to tell her about my delivering copies of prior issues of Routes magazines to Radio City Music Hall, during a huge snow storm, a couple of years earlier—hoping she would be so impressed that she would agree to interviewed. She apologized for not responding, saying consequtively that she had no recollection of ever receiving prior issues; and, asked me “would like a photograph of me?”. I answered eagerly “Yes”. Just, at that time, an elderly couple entered the room. She waved to them.  Greeting them by name, while at the same time putting her hand on mine. As she completed greetings she turned to me and asked “Whose  name would you like me put on photograph ?” I stuttered and said “Ron”. She signed the photo, then said abrubtly “It was nice meeting you Ron.” She turned and began to speak to the waiting couple.

And so, whenever I listen to the songs “Send in the Clowns”, “On the Street of Dreams”, “Doodlin'”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Missing You”, “Porgy”, or albums “Brazilian Romance” duets with Milton Nacimento, “Live in Japan “, “Gershwin Live!” with Michael Tilton Thomas, or any of the hundreds of songs recorded by Sassy, the Divine One, Sailor, or my description “the Most Wonderful Singer of All Times”—I’m reminded of that brief meeting and that snap dismissal.

For those of you who are not familiar with Sassy’s lush, sumptuous and sensuous voice, check her out on YouTube. For those of you who haven’t listened to Sassy for a long time or need timeout for a back-in-the-day moment, dust off a CD or two! You’ll glad you did.

Ronn

Leave a Reply