Mildred Bailey: Rockin' Chair (1937)


Rockin' Chair


Mildred Bailey (vocals)


The Chronological Mildred Bailey 1937-1938 (Classics 1114)

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Mildred Bailey (vocals),

Bill Hyland, Stew Pletcher, Louis Mucci (trumpets), Alex Mastren (trombone), Hank D’Amico, Frank Simeone, Charles Lamphere, Herbie Haymer (reeds), Red Norvo (xylophone), Bill Miller (piano), Dave Barbour (guitar), Pete Peterson (bass), Maurice Purtill (drums)


Composed by Hoagy Carmichael. Arranged by Eddie Sauter


Recorded: Chicago, March 23, 1937


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Mildred Bailey was one of the first white female vocalists to incorporate the sound and feeling of black singers into her own style. She was instrumental in starting Bing Crosby’s career with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and began recording as a solo artist in the late 1920s. By the mid 1930s, she had perfected a light swing approach and was a favorite among musicians.

“Rockin’ Chair” was written by Hoagy Carmichael as a pseudo-minstrel song. Bailey’s version overcomes all of the lyric’s obstacles, so much so that we think of it as a beautifully sung ballad, and not an embarrassing reminder of past racial attitudes. Bailey uses rhythm for expressiveness and subtle slides throughout (Slides were an integral part of Bailey's early style, but she overused them and her older recordings have not aged well). While she takes chances with the melody through the entire performance, her second chorus builds on what she sang before and contributes to an exquisitely developed interpretation. Bailey was so associated with this song that recorded it for 4 different labels and was affectionately known as "The Rockin' Chair Lady."

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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