It was today. I know it without looking; and I have a terrible head for dates. I forget friends' birthdays, anniversaries, even dates I have with friends. Once, I forgot my father's birthday and it is two days before my own. For that matter, once I forgot my own birthday.
But I always remember that Nancy LaMott died on December 13th, even though the days just before I find myself thinking "was it today? or was it the 13th?"
On one of my other blogs I began a story, years ago, a serial in which I told the story (or stories, if you will) about how I met LaMottski and how we became friends and some of the adventures we shared. I never finished that serial. It seemed too final. To tell the whole story would be to be finished with Nancy LaMott.
I don't ever want to be finished with Nancy LaMott.
She is with me every day, even though I may not listen to her music every day. I don't have to actively turn on a LaMott cd to hear her. Her music is embedded in my soul. I have a LaMott playlist in my Ipod. It is called, simply, Nancy, Naturally; and it is all the songs that I think a person SHOULD know by the girl who called herself (because Tony Bennet did) 'chick singer'.
Perhaps that is a good way to honour her on this day. The songs in the playlist are, in this order:
Child In Me Again from the BEAUTIFUL BABY cd. It's Nancy and a piano. That's all it needs. That voice... Heavenly.
Moon River from COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. There are four essential recordings of this song, for my money. The one and only, the immortal Miss Audrey Hepburn; the only uptempo version to be accepted, by Nancy Wilson; my own recording that I did live for my cd SIMPLE (and I am really proud of the fact that I attempted this song and did it well) and Nancy's. It is a unique recording.
Laura from MY FOOLISH HEART. It was the first time I ever heard the song and, now, whenever I hear someone else sing it, I hear Nancy.
Blue Skies from BEAUTIFUL BABY. You never HEARD jazz this good.
Stay With Me from JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS, the only REAL Christmas cd that matters and my favourite.
With Every Breath I Take from BEAUTIFUL BABY. This song and Stay With Me are from the musical CITY OF ANGELS and Nancy just purrs and growls and sounds as smooth as my mama's french silk frosting...
That Old Black Magic from COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. Did you know that this is the song I sing in the shower? Every time. Sometimes I sing Marilyn Monroe's version, sometimes Sammy Davis Jr.s. But not Nancy's. That would be attempting Everest.
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby from BEAUTIFUL BABY cd. It must be heard to be believed.
My Foolish Heart from the cd of the same name. This was the first time I ever heard Nancy sing and it was halfway through the song that I took all my Barbra Streisand cds and moved them to the back of the shelf...
Help Is On The Way from BEAUTIFUL BABY, the most uplifting song of hope I will ever know..
The Days Of Wine And Roses/Whistling Away The Dark from COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. Can you believe it? In one song I get Nancy, Mercer, Mancini and references to my favourites, Lee Remick and Julie Andrews. I would never have imagined combining these two songs but Nancy never played by any rules, anyway.
Have You Got Any Castles? from LISTEN TO MY HEART. Nancy LaMott at her jazziest, cleverest, most tongue in cheek feminist fashion. This is the song a non-LaMott listener should hear, when hearing Nancy for the first time.
A Child Is Born from JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS. It is midnight. It is starting to snow. The true meaning of Christmas is right here and now, if only you will listen.
We Can Be Kind from LISTEN TO MY HEART. It is a message that I believe and that I believe we should all observe. I have heard others sing this song but no one has got the message across quite the way Nancy does.
Goodnight Moon from the Kathie Lee Gifford album DREAMSHIP. Nancy does the harmony with Ms Gifford and makes a lovely recording extraordinary.
Rhode Island Is Famous For You from MY FOOLISH HEART. I once heard someone say that this is Nancy at her best. It is a snappy tune with clever lyrics, Nancy and a musician or two. I'd have to say, he was right, the man who said this. You don't need to dress up something this great with frou frou arrangements and a 21 piece orchestra.
PS I Love You from COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. We should all be so lucky to get this letter, from anyone.
No Moon At All/Old Devil Moon from MY FOOLISH HEART. This was the medley I read on the back of the cd to make me buy it, the first time I saw it. My first LaMott cd and the one that hooked me, forever. She made these medleys a trademark and, boy, when she trademarked something, no one should try it again..
I'll Be Home For Christmas from JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS. The simplicity and emotion. It was what Nancy was all about. She once told me that if she hit a wrong note in performance, she didn't care, as long as the emotion was real. That was the greatest lesson she taught me: honesty.
Talk To Me Baby from COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. Maybe my personal favourite. I can still see Nancy at the Oak Room, doing this number live, flirting with Chris and Jay...that is...with their instruments. Nancy stuck between two men, a cello and a piano. Whew!
Out of This World/So In Love from LISTEN TO MY HEART. I had seen Nancy do this number (she called it the Obsession Medley) several times and when she was recording the cd there was a chance she would not do this piece. It was one of the few times in my adult life that I actually prayed for something other than guidance...
All Those Christmas Cliches from JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS. The morning Nancy died it was snowing. I cried a few tears and I went Christmas shopping. Life must go on and she knew it. They were playing this song at the HMV at 72nd street and the clerks were all ashen in the face. In fact, almost every record store I went into on that day was playing Nancy. It is simply not Christmas without this number.
Ordinary Miracles from LISTEN TO MY HEART. I loved Miss Barbra Streisand since I was a boy. I love her recording of this song. Nancy's proves that Barbra is not the living end. Besting Barbra Streisand is some great way to go out..
I Love A Piano. This is from an audio bootleg I got my hands on and the first time I heard it was in the car. I was driving and listening to a live recording and each song was something I had already heard. Then this tune happened and I had to pull over. I was crying and I could not breathe...
Where Do You Start? from MY FOOLISH HEART. The saddest song ever written has been sung by everyone. But remember.... Nancy specialized in honesty...
Listen To My Heart from the cd of that name. It was her signature tune. No LaMott collection is complete without it.
In Passing Years from BEAUTIFUL BABY. This song reminds me of my friendship with Nancy and with my dear friend, Mary Margaret. It is a simple song and it touches my heart, the way they do.
I'll Be Here With You from LISTEN TO MY HEART. It is Nancy's song for Peter Zapp and my song for Pat and each couple's song for each other. I can hear no one else sing this song. Literally.
Some Other Time from NANCY LAMOTT LIVE AT TAVERN ON THE GREEN. Comden and Green gave us this simple message and Nancy got it and delivers..
Oh Wow. This was a demo Nancy did that few people get to hear. I wish they could.
No One Is Alone/Not While I'm Around was recorded by Nancy and Christ Marlowe as part of a gift for a friend and it is, exactly, as special as you might imagine..
Another Mister Right Left is a demo of a David Zippel song, the kind of bluesey torchy song that Nancy understood and put forth in a way that was all her own.
As I Remember Him from the Portia Nelson cd THIS LIFE. It is the last song Nancy ever recorded and you can hear that she was sick. It uplifts me and breaks my heart, simultaneously. I think she knew it was the last thing she would record.
The Things That Matter is a demo that Nancy gave me. It might be my favourite recording of hers because of the message that 'the things that matter are very small' and the way that she believed it.
The Waters of March ended up on the TAVERN ON THE GREEN cd but this is a version that I like better, one that was played on the radio. NOBODY sang this song like Nancy. NOBODY.
Downtown from the WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE cd. After she was gone, this cd was released. I was at the HMV on 5th avenue and saw it and rushed to the listening station and it was the first song I went to. She sounds so happy, so alive. I stood in the store, tears rolling down my face, and laughing....
Nancy LaMott is my favourite singer. She came along and forced me to make the distinction that she was my favourite and that Helen Reddy was the singer I had loved longer than any other. Nancy LaMott was a dear friend, one with whom I spent not enough time. I have many stories and a few photos but they are all I am left with, other than these recordings. She was taken too soon and everyone who knew her and loved her, and many who didn't, are grateful she came out way. The photos featured above are digital pics of photos that have hung in my home: one is from the LISTEN TO MY HEART album cover sessions, one is a shot of Nancy and her husband, Peter Zapp and one is of Nancy recording THE LADY DOWN THE HALL for her final album. I will not show the only photo of Nancy and me together..
One day, during her final months, my phone rang.
"Hi, it's LaMottski. What are you doing today?"
"I don't know, what ARE we doing today?"
"Meet me at this address and bring your camera...."
I joined Nancy at the wigmaker's. Kathie Lee had bought Nancy two wigs; one synthetic and one made of human hair. She was having them fitted. She decided that since her hair was coming out, she should just shave it off. We did pics of her laughing her ass off as her golden locks were shorn and she took on the look of GI Jane, then we did the photos of her having her Nicole Kidman TO DIE FOR wig fitted. She looked gorgeous. After that we went to lunch at John's Pizzeria on 67th (I think). During lunch we were talking about her boyfriend, Peter, the man who would end up marrying her on her deathbed. I said "He's a good man."
Nancy looked at me, simply, and said "you're a good man."
I can see her eyes and hear her voice, still. It is one of the only times I have accepted a compliment, absolutely, for I wanted that endorsement; and it has kept me going during dark times.
A few years later, I got out the photos of Nancy at the wig shop. Laughing, head shaved, watching the wigmaker in the mirror. The mirror. There, in the mirror, you see a man whose face is hidden by the camera through which he is looking. Ha. I had discovered it, the one and only shot of me with my girlfriend and you can't see my face. Ha. I remembered the time Nancy said to me "no one has ever photographed me the way you do, Stephen." The only picture of us together and all you could see of me was a camera in front of my face.
I laughed out loud.