Remembering Rosemary Clooney

Another short trip back to the earliest days of the charts, when big-lunged men such as Al Martino, David Whitfield and Frankie Laine were dominating the #1 position with earnest declarations of love and faith. Elvis hadn’t arrived yet, Sinatra wasn’t the teen heart-throb of a decade before… The charts needed some sexiness, some fun…

Thank God for the girls, then. Girls like Rosemary Clooney. I’ve already posted on Kay Starr and Winifred Atwell, two contemporaries of Clooney, who brought a jazzy playfulness to their chart-topping records. But Miss Clooney, who scored Britain’s 25th and 28th #1 singles, went a step further, and brought mad-cap craziness to the pop charts.

First up came ‘This Ole House’, in November ’54. A raucous, honky tonk piano-led tale of a rundown house whose elderly inhabitant is waiting to meet the saints… There can have been very few hit songs to reference oiling hinges and fixing shingle… Here she is performing it live, and with slightly more restraint, in the ’80s.

Then just weeks later, she was back with an even better hit. Clooney was of Irish/German extraction, but that didn’t stop her hamming up an invented Italian side. The lyrics are basically nonsense, with nods to Italian, Spanish, Mexican and Neapolitan. (Sample lyric: Hey mambo, no more a-Mozzarella…) Again the energy and playfulness really stood out next to its dully earnest contemporaries. (See also her earlier hit ‘Botch a Me’ if you like the cod-Italian vibes.) ‘Mambo Italiano’ lives on in a way that few pre-rock hits do. It was remixed back into the charts in the early ’00s, and sampled more recently by Lady Gaga and Iggy Azalea.

Rosemary Clooney’s career trajectory was pretty standard for a post-war pop star. From singing with big bands, to a record label, to big hits and on to TV and films – her most famous one probably being ‘White Christmas’ alongside Bing Crosby. What wasn’t so standard was Clooney’s sleeping pill and tranquilliser dependency that developed through the sixties, that ended with her in psychoanalytic therapy for eight years.

She survived, though, came back and continued to record throughout the remainder of her life. Her final performance came just six months before she died of lung cancer in 2002. One of the pall bearers at her funeral was her nephew, George.

Rosemary Clooney, May 23rd 1928 – June 29th 2002

17 thoughts on “Remembering Rosemary Clooney

  1. Rosemary’s chart career was even before my time, and that’s saying something – but I do find these flashbacks to stars of a very different age fascinating – like the Vera Lynn and Winifred Atwell ones you did too, thank you. Now I wonder if any smart TV producers (smart TV, geddit?) in the 1980s ever tried to get Rosemary and Shakin’ Stevens together to duet on you-know-what!

    1. Thanks. I like doing these little flashbacks… I use them to fill in when I’ve not been covering the number ones at my usual pace! That would have been something… Shakey and Rosey…

  2. I listened to another video of her This Ole House (the original?) and that was pretty cool with the guy’s deep voice added to it. The video you have posted…wherever she was, I noticed the woman at the table, to the left, seated by herself. As Clooney sang and walked down the stairs, that woman was not enjoying the performance. LOL!

    She was quite the superstar in her time. I didn’t know she had drug problems but, Hollyweird will do that to you.

    1. badfinger20 (Max)

      Yea that lady is not having a good time at all. She must have been expecting someone else or she is a big party pooper.

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        LOL…No no no…I wouldn’t do it. Too much in one place to loose. That would be putting your eggs in one basket…unless you had another one to back it up.

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