Clooney, Rosemary

Clooney, Rosemary
▪ 2003

      American singer (b. May 23, 1928, Maysville, Ky.— d. June 29, 2002, Beverly Hills, Calif.), employed her warm vocals to popularize such 1950s hit novelty songs as “This Ole House” and “Mambo Italiano” as well as the love songs “Tenderly,” “Half as Much,” and “Hey There.” While living with their grandfather in Cincinnati, Ohio, 16-year-old Clooney and her younger sister, Betty, sang duets on the radio, which led to three years of tours with Tony Pastor's dance band. On her own by 1949, Clooney soared to fame with the million-selling “Come On-a My House” (1951). She had roles in several films, most notably White Christmas (1954) with Bing Crosby, and served as the host of The Rosemary Clooney Show (1956–57), a television variety show. By this time she had married (1953) actor José Ferrer, with whom she had five children, but the marriage was stormy; the couple divorced but remarried in 1961 before divorcing with finality in 1967. The next year, addicted to prescription drugs, she suffered a mental breakdown; confinement in a psychiatric ward in a Santa Monica, Calif., hospital was followed by four years of intensive therapy. Her return to performing was gradual—first in Holiday Inn hotels and television commercials, then on Crosby's 50th anniversary tour, and, beginning in 1977, with a long string of critically praised albums on the Concord Jazz label. Her autobiography was made into the 1982 television movie Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story, starring Sondra Locke as Clooney. In the 1980s and '90s, she sang in concerts and nightclubs, including 1991 and 1993 Carnegie Hall concerts in New York City. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance as an Alzheimer's patient on a 1994 episode of the television show ER, in which she appeared with her nephew, George Clooney. In 2002 Clooney was honoured with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.

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▪ American actress and musician
born May 23, 1928, Maysville, Kentucky, U.S.
died June 29, 2002, Beverly Hills, California
 American singer whose rich voice, uncomplicated style, and impeccable timing made her a leading pop and jazz singer.

      In 1945, while living with their grandfather in Cincinnati, Ohio, Clooney and her younger sister, Betty, began singing duets on the radio. The Clooney Sisters, as they became known, soon caught the attention of the saxophonist and bandleader Tony Pastor, and the sisters toured with his band for several years. In 1949 Rosemary, who had determined to make a living doing what she loved most, moved to New York to embark on a solo career. There she signed with Columbia Records and quickly made a name for herself with her chart-topping rendition of "Come On-a My House" (1951). A string of novelty hits followed, including "This Ole House" and "Mambo Italiano" as well as love songs, such as "Tenderly," "Half as Much," and "Hey There." Her success landed her on the cover of the major American weekly Time magazine (1953). That same year she married actor José Ferrer (Ferrer, José), but the marriage was stormy; the couple divorced, remarried, and divorced again in 1967. Although she was not a trained actor, Clooney's popularity during this period was such that she accepted roles in several films, most notably White Christmas (1954; with Bing Crosby (Crosby, Bing)), and she served as the host of a television variety show The Rosemary Clooney Show (1956–57). In 1956, with Duke Ellington (Ellington, Duke) and Billy Strayhorn (Strayhorn, Billy), she recorded the album Blue Rose; though not a popular success when it was released, it was later deemed a jazz classic.

      With the rise of rock music in the late 1950s and the subsequent decline of interest in jazz singers, Clooney's career seemed to be more or less over. In 1968 she was present at the assassination of her friend Robert F. Kennedy (Kennedy, Robert F.), and that experience, coupled with an addiction to prescription drugs, precipitated a mental breakdown. Her return to performing was gradual but, by her own account, essential. She confessed to one interviewer, “If I couldn't do it, I wouldn't live.…That's what I do: I sing.” Beginning in 1977 she released a string of critically praised albums on the Concord Jazz label. By this time her voice had changed considerably, though it was quite recognizable, and she could convey with heartbreaking immediacy her own experience of love and loss. Although Clooney experimented with a number of genres, her later career largely centred on jazz. In 2002 she was honoured with her first Grammy Award, for lifetime achievement. Clooney cowrote two autobiographies, This for Remembrance (1977; with Raymond Strait) and Girl Singer (1999; with Joan Barthel). Her nephew George Clooney and son Miguel Ferrer are actors.

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Universalium. 2010.

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