Jo Stafford

Jo Stafford, a perfect singer, died on Wednesday. She was ninety years old. There will be obituaries this morning in newspapers all over the world. Web sites have them already. Many people who read them will be hearing of her for the first time because in the 1960s, at the top of her game, she walked away from the music business. Tributes to Jo and memories of her showed up today across the internet. My artsjournal colleague Terry Teachout has a fine one, as does Bill Reed. I know of no better line of description about Jo’s singing than this one from Gene Lees in his book Singers and the Song II:

Possibly it was her way of letting a song happen rather than shoving it at you soaked in personal style.

Here’s what Gene had in mind:

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. John Birchard says

    In the early 1960s, I was music director for WCCC AM&FM in Hartford, Connecticut. As such, I had to audition all new recordings that arrived at the stations for possible airplay. One day, an album from (I believe) RCA Victor arrived touting the talents of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a sensational new lounge act popular in Europe. I put the disc on the turntable and started reading the liner notes as the music began. At first, I didn’t notice it… the flat note here, the sharp there… the dropped measure and slightly screwy harmonies. But they penetrated my consciousness and I thought, “What the hell…?”. And then I realized it was a joke, a wonderful, sophisticated joke by a pair of people who were so good at music, they could be bad for the fun of it.
    Of course, the truth emerged after awhile – it was Jo Stafford and Paul Weston. They went on to win a comedy Grammy for a subsequent album. I don’t think Jonathan and Darlene were their greatest accomplishment, but it’s a monument to two people who were comfortable with their own talents and had a remarkable sense of humor.
    And, for what it’s worth, my favorite Stafford song was “You Belong to Me”….as smooth and tasty as Breyer’s French Vanilla.
    John Birchard
    (The original Greatest Hits of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards is out of print, but volume II is still available at: . Mr. Birchard is the Rifftides Washington, DC, correspondent — DR)

  2. says

    Every Friday night, I produce and host live my show MOSTLY BIG BANDS…on 90.3 FM, KEDM, Monroe, Louisiana.
    My two-hour show on Friday was “Remembering Jo Stafford.” Of course, I had to play some Jonathan &Darlene cuts. Anyone who’d like a copy of my play list, feel free to e-mail me. I list titles, artist and album #. Corinthian is Stafford’s personal label. The J&D material and other albums are still available.
    There is a wonderful web site devoted to Jo and Paul.

  3. Rich Juliano says

    The first “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards” LP was iconic in our musically-inclined house when I grew up. My Dad – a fine tenor player himself – thought it was about the funniest thing he had ever heard and played it for me and the other more musical siblings many times over the years (and this was a good 20-30 years after the LP’s release). Dad is gone now but one of my brothers got out the record about a year ago and we had a reunion. I fully agree that they were “so good at music, they could be bad for the fun of it.” Intentionally playing/singing badly, especially in such a clever way, is yet another lost art. RIP

  4. Alexander says

    In 1950 Jo Stafford hosted a program on the Voice of America called ” How you as an individual can help build a better world”. It was the first time I heard her voice. I was in Junior High and wrote to her and after 3 weeks received an album with her recordings. I enjoy very much listening to her most beautiful voice, no other vocalist ever could match.

  5. michael dennis says

    I remember looking through my Dad’s 78’s for the pretty song about the pyramids along the Nile,looking and sampling every disc with a girl’s name on it.I was pretty young in the early seventies,it seems now, didn’t know any girls named “Jo”, and it was years before I saw the light(s). December 31 last,I was getting ready to go out with friends and was listening to a Jo Stafford CD; thought I’d find out how’s she doin’ nowadays. Am I always the last to know?

  6. Longy says

    Jo Stafford was born the same year as my dad. As a youngster I remember he and his mates arguing about who had the best voice, and the list was impressive. Rosemary Cloony, Dinah Shore et al. I loved them all but for Jo I’ve always had a soft spot. She was one of those rare talents who could cross all the genres with ease. I still play her stuff and now my kids know who she is. What better credit could someone have but to reach across the generations as well.