Cabaret is a forum for the classic American pop song — and the death of singer Mary Cleere Haran, hit by a car coming out of a driveway while she was riding her bike in Deerfield Beach, Fla., robs the world of an activist who interpreted, updated and preserved those brilliant, melodious standards. The genre and milieu in which she worked isn’t my preferred entertainment, but there’s no denying the centrality in sophisticated contemporary culture of the words and music of Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and the many others celebrated by Haran, age 58, who wrote and produced shows and contributed significantly to television documentaries about the stars and songs of the U.S. in the mid 20th Century. Though there are performers as devoted to sustaining this legacy of wit and glamor as she, when an artist as deeply into their speciality it taken from the stage in their prime, that specialty is severely wounded, too.
I’m particularly disturbed by Haran’s death because as a bicyclist in Brooklyn I’ve become increasingly aware of the disregard drivers of cars and trucks routinely practice on streets they share with lighter and less powerful conveyances (as well as pedestrians). Even worse is the backlash of officials and some governing bodies to this non-polluting, healthy and economic way of getting around. Haran was reportedly on her bike, returning from having dropped off her resumé at a hotel where she wanted to perform. Deerfield Beach, a South Florida town with a population of approximately 76,000 and about 15 square miles in size, sounds like the kind of community in which biking is an easy way to get around. I can find no details about the accident that left Haran in a coma, but how fast must a car be coming out of a driveway in order to blindside a rider? How careless is the driver who doesn’t see a biker or walker on the street they’re about to enter?