Doris Day turns 90 today. The iconic star, who rose to the top in recordings, movies and television, is one of a dwindling number of pop music hit-makers from the 1940s and early 1950s who are still living. The major stars of that era who are still with us are now in their 80s and 90s. A few, notably the eternally cool Tony Bennett, 85, are still going strong. But most have been in retirement for years.
Some have lived to see their work influence current artists. Pete Seeger, 92, was saluted on Bruce Springsteen's 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Patty Andrews, 94, watched Bette Midler score a top 10 hit in 1973 with the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." She also saw Christina Aguilera echo the sound and spirit of that 1941 classic on her 2007 hit "Candyman."
I took a look at Day's remarkable career in a separate blog. If you missed it, here's a link.
Here are other key stars from the 1940s and early 1950s who are still living. They're listed by their current age. (They should view their age as an achievement. Anybody who makes it to 80 or 90, especially in show business, managed to sidestep a lot of perils.)
Tony Martin, 98. Martin had two hits in the late '30s (before the inception of the first weekly national song chart in 1940) and 33 chart hits between 1940 and 1957. His biggest was "There's No Tomorrow," which hit #2 in 1950. His tally of hits includes three collabos with Dinah Shore (one of those also featured Betty Hutton and Phil Harris) and one with Fran Warren. Martin was married to dancer Cyd Charisse for 60 years until her death in 2008.
Vera Lynn, 95. The Englishwoman had seven chart hits from 1948 to 1957. Her biggest was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart," which logged nine weeks at #1 in 1952. Lynn was the most popular female singer in England during World War II. In 2009, We'll Meet Again: The Very Best Of Vera Lynn reached #1 in the U.K., making Lynn, then 92, the oldest living artist to top the U.K. chart.
Patty Andrews, 94. Andrews was the youngest member of the Andrews Sisters, who belong on every list of the most successful all-female groups of all time. LaVerne Andrews died in 1967. Maxene died in 1995. The trio's first hit was "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon" in 1938. The trio had 68 chart hits from 1940 to 1951. The biggest was "Rum And Coca-Cola," an adaptation of an old calypso song which logged 10 weeks at #1 in 1945. The trio had five other #1 hits between 1944 and 1950. The sisters charted with 16 collabos with Bing Crosby, three with Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, three with Russ Morgan and his orchestra, two with Danny Kaye, two with Carmen Miranda, and one each with Eddie Heywood and his orchestra, Les Paul and Ernest Tubb. In addition, Patty Andrews had three chart hits on her own, including a collabo with Bing Crosby's younger brother Bob Crosby.
Pete Seeger, 92. Seeger was a key member of the legendary folk group The Weavers, which had nine chart hits from 1950 to 1952. Their biggest was their first, "Goodnight Irene," a collabo with Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra which logged 13 weeks at #1 in 1950. They charted with three more collabos with Jenkins and one with Terry Gilkyson. Seeger returned to the pop chart on his own in 1964 with "Little Boxes." Seeger has won three Grammys: two for Best Traditional Folk Album and a third for Best Musical Album for Children. Seeger is the only person to be voted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award twice. He was saluted on his own in 1993 and with the Weavers in 2006. Two other members of The Weavers are still living: Ronnie Gilbert, 85, and Fred Hellerman, 84. The fourth founding member, Lee Hays, died in 1981.
Ray Anthony, 90. The bandleader had 27 chart hits from 1949 to 1962. His biggest was "At Last" (later memorably covered by Etta James), which hit #2 in 1952. Anthony charted with a 1955 collabo with Frank Sinatra, "Melody Of Love."
Kitty Kallen, 89. Kallen had 12 chart hits from 1949 to 1963. Her biggest was "Little Things Mean A Lot," which logged nine weeks at #1 in 1954. Her tally includes two collabos with Richard Hayes and one with Georgie Shaw.
Kay Starr, 89. Starr had 40 chart hits between 1948 and 1962. Her biggest was "Wheel Of Fortune," which logged 10 weeks at #1 in 1952. She also hit #1 in 1956 with "Rock And Roll Waltz." She charted with four collaborations with Tennessee Ernie Ford, who was among the most popular stars of the 1950s.
Tony Bennett, 85. Bennett amassed 44 chart hits from 1951 to 2011. His biggest hit was his first, "Because Of You," which logged 10 weeks at #1 in 1951. He also hit #1 in the early '50s with "Rags To Riches" and a cover of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." Bennett has charted with just one collabo, last year's "Body And Soul," with Amy Winehouse. Bennett has won 16 Grammys, including a record 11 awards for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. His Grammys span 49 years, which is also a record. Bennett received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
Stan Freberg, 85. The satirist put 17 novelty hits on the chart from 1951 to 1960. His biggest was "St. George And The Dragonet," which logged four weeks at #1 in 1953. His tally includes a collabo with Daws Butler. Freberg won a Grammy in 1958, the first year of the awards, for Best Performance, Documentary or Spoken Word for The Best Of The Stan Freberg Shows.
Ed Ames, 84. Ames was the youngest member and is the sole surviving member of the Ames Brothers, which amassed 43 chart hits from 1948 to 1960. Their biggest hit was "You You You," which logged eight weeks at #1 in 1953. They also hit #1 in 1950 with "Rag Mop" and "Sentimental Me." They charted with two collabos with Les Brown And His Band of Renown and one with Monica Lewis. Vic Ames died in 1978, followed by Gene in 1997 and Joe in 2007. Ed Ames also had seven chart hits on his own from 1965 to 1969, including "My Cup Runneth Over." Ames played a Native American character, Mingo, on the TV series Daniel Boone from 1964 to 1968. That role led to the famous "tomahawk toss" sequence on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1965, which was one of the most classic moments in the show's 30-year history. (You can find it at You Tube.)
Patti Page, 84. Page amassed 79 chart hits between 1948 and 1968. Her biggest was the classic "The Tennessee Waltz," which logged 13 weeks at #1 in 1950. She also hit #1 in the early '50s with "All My Love (Bolero)," "I Went To Your Wedding" and "The Doggie In The Window." She and Vic Damone teamed for a 1948 hit. Page headlined The Patti Page Olds Show in the 1958-1959 TV season. Her status as an icon was sealed with a lyric in Bruce Johnston's 1971 song "Disney Girls (1957)": "Patti Page and summer days/on Old Cape Cod." Page won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Performance for her 1998 album Live At Carnegie Hall—The 50th Anniversary Concert.
Vic Damone, 83. Damone had 39 chart hits between 1947 and 1965. His biggest was "You're Breaking My Heart," which spent four weeks at #1 in 1949. He recorded an aforementioned 1948 hit with Patti Page.
Joni James, 81. James had 23 chart hits from 1952 to 1961. Her biggest was her first, "Why Don't You Believe Me," which logged six weeks at #1 in 1952. Her tally includes a collabo with 100 Strings.