Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Feather, Lorraine (Billie Jane Lee)
Feather, Lorraine (Billie Jane Lee), lyricist, singer; b. New York, NY, 10 September 1948. She's the daughter of jazz critic Leonard Feather. She was named Billie Jane Lee Lorraine after godmother Billie Holiday, her mother Jane (formerly a big band singer), her mother's ex-roommate Peggy Lee, and the song "Sweet Lorraine." She grew up surrounded by jazz musicians; close family friends included the Ellingtons and Dizzy Gillespie. The family moved to Southern California when she was 12. She graduated from Hollywood High School, where she became interested in acting and won a Best Supporting Actress award from L.A. Valley College's annual competition. She majored in Theatre Arts at L.A. City College and appeared in several productions there.
She returned to New York in 1966 to try her hand at acting, supporting herself by waitressing. She appeared off-Broadway in Walk Down My Street in 1968, then in regional theatre and touring productions, including Jesus Christ Superstar, in the late '60's and early '70's, and in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway" in 1973. Frustrated by long bouts of unemployment, Feather began to try her hand at singing, which she had never studied. She gigged with Top 40 bands in the five boroughs and on the Jersey Shore, backed up Grand Funk Railroad and Petula Clark in the mid-'70's. In 1976 she began performing her own show; she returned to Los Angeles and sang at jazz clubs such as the Parisian Room and Donte's. Drummer Jake Hanna saw her at Donte's and recommended her to Concord Jazz head Carl Jefferson, leading to her first solo album for Concord Jazz in 1978. She began writing lyrics.
In 1980, Feather was picked as one of three singers for a project put together by pop producer Richard Perry, entitled Swing, the group's name later changed to Full Swing; the other two singers were Charlotte Crossley of Bette Midler's Harlettes, and Mel Torme's son Steve March. Feather wrote lyrics to big band pieces for the album, including Horace Henderson's "Big John's Special." The Full Swing version was included in the Goldie Hawn movie Swing Shift. The group remained an entity for eight years with various personnel, recording two more albums (1987, 1989), touring internationally, and backing Bette Midler. She wrote lyrics for 23 of their recorded songs in all. Full Swing's recording of Feather's song "2 Good 2 Be 4gotten," written with Morgan Ames and Russ Freeman, became a Top 40 Adult Contemporary single.
In 1983 Feather married Tony Morales, drummer for The Rippingtons, David Benoit, Rickie Lee Jones. In the late 1980's, after the breakup of Full Swing, Feather concentrated solely on her lyric-writing for several years, penning the lyrics to songs sung on recordings by dozens of artists including Patti Austin, Phyllis Hyman, Kenny Rankin and Diane Schuur. She wrote or co-wrote (and sometimes performed) TV soundtrack songs for Beverly Hills 90210, Family Matters, The Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara (Emmy nominations in 1992 and '93), Disney's Dinosaurs (the TV show and album), the animated film Babes in Toyland (1997); numerous songs for the TV series All Dogs Go to Heaven and the show's theme, which earned her her third Emmy nomination in 1997; in all she received seven Emmy nominations. The Feather/Paul Grabowsky song, "Jungle Rhythm," was one of three co-written by her for the Walt Disney feature film The Jungle Book 2, which opened in theatres February 14, 2003.
She also wrote, with film composer Mark Watters, "Faster, High, Stronger," the finale to the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics, performed by opera singer Jessye Norman. Feather and Morales moved to the San Mateo coastside near San Francisco in 1997. Also in 2004, Ms. Feather wrote the lyrics for Julie Andrews' return to singing on film in The Princess Diaries 2, "Your Crowning Glory," a piece with music by Larry Grossman. At this writing she is completing an album for early 2005 release, Dooji Wooji, recorded with a 1930s-style "small big band." Dooji Wooji contains four more Ellington instrumentals with added lyrics but is predominantly an all-original project with music by Eddie Arkin, Bill Elliott, Russell Ferrante and Shelly Berg.
Lorraine and Tony and their dogs Sterling and Brava live in California near San Francisco.
Sweet Lorraine (1978); Full Swing: In Full Swing (1988); End of the Sky; The Body Remembers (1997); New York City Drag (2001); Cafe Society (2003); Such Sweet Thunder (2004)
Mark Winkler: Ebony Rain (1985), Hottest Night of the Year (1986); Barry Manilow: Swing Street (1987); Bette Midler: For the Boys (1991); Patti Austin: Carry On (1991); Soap Opera's Greatest Love Themes (1992); Barry Manilow: Complete Collection and Then Some... (1992); Michael Feinstein: Forever (1993); Terry Trotter Trio: Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd in Jazz (1995); Original Soundtrack: El Hazard: The Wanderers (1998)
Feature articles/interviews: San Francisco Chronicle (Jeff Kaliss, February 2002), allaboutjazz.com (Jeff Kaliss, March 2002), jazzweek.com (Tony Gasparre, April 2003); numerous radio interviews in 2002 and 2003 for Minneapolis Radio, WBGO's Jazz from the Archives (Ed Berger), KKJZ (Chuck Niles), WKCR (Phil Schaap), KCSM, WGLT, others.