Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The life of Sultry Songstress Julie London.

I love really good Christmas albums, like those by the likes Vince Guaraldi, Jo Stafford, Dean Martin etc.  But, usually this time of year I love to hear wintery holiday sounding albums that are not so overtly Christmas, but still have that cozy coco sound.  I keep Julie London's music on heavy rotation this time of year.  When you need to set the scene of seduction, brood over a romance gone wrong,  throw a swank cocktail party, cuddle up with coco, when its really late at night, or on a rainy, snowy, cold day, look to London.

Julie London probably doesn't even cover any official christmas tunes, but I always play her "I've got my love to keep me warm" and "Warm December" around the fall-winter season.  "I've got my love..." is probably the sexiest winter themed song-- probably because every song she sings is instantly cemented as the sultriest version possible.  For those that love quirky covers, look to her cougar-era 1969 cover album "Yummy yummy, yummy" where she easily sultry-ifies popular pop songs from The Doors to one hit wonders.

She never considered herself a singer (she was trying to break into acting), but agreed to sing a demo called "Cry me a River" for a songwriter friend.  It was put on wax and a few circulating copies got in the hands of some DJs who, as personal fans of this obscure single, spun it regularly on the radio.  It was soon a huge hit, and Julie agreed to record an entire album around the popularity of the song.  She soon became a popular pin-up and leading female performer of the 50s.  The song, of course, is a legendary tune for jilted lovers.  In recent years, pop star Justin Timberlake tried to evoke the heartbroken despair in his twist on the song.   And, when I saw the film  "Never Let Me Go" (2010)  I felt that the main song "Never Let Me Go", by invented singer Julie Bridgewater, and referenced throughout the movie as a nostalgic song for a character,  was a send-up to Julie London.

London was actually born Gayle Peck in Santa Rosa, California to a song and dance vaudeville team.  In July 1947 she married actor Jack Webb from the TV show Dragnet.   She worked as a pin-up model during WWII and after marrying Webb had two daughters before divorcing Webb in 1952.  In 1958she had a break through in acting when she starred in "Man of the West", as a woman abused by an outlaw gang.  This was her most noted acting performance in her career.  She then met and married jazz composer Bobby Troup and had another daughter.  In the 70s, she focused more heavily on acting, playing a nurse on the series "Emergency!".  Throughout the 70s, until the 80s, she starred in commercials and played a guest panelist on popular game shows.  While the first half of her career focused on music (her last album came out in 1975), the later half was dedicated to acting in TV work, before she retired in the 80s.

Shortly after Julie suffered a stroke in 1995, one of her daughters passed away in a traffic accident.  London's condition worsened after these events and she died on her husband Bobby Troup's birthday in the year 2000 at age 74.  She was buried at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California beside her husband and three of her children who died prematurely in tragic circumstances.  Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.

If you've never heard of her, this haunting movie clip will make you an instant fan.  This is a short bit of Julie London singing her most popular song, "Cry me a River" from "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), starring Jane Mansfield.  This gentleman is haunted by the wounded, embittered ghost of Julie London, who appears to him after he's had several drinks, to haunt his nights, preying on his conscious.


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