Lee Wiley (October 9, 1908 – December 11, 1975) was an American jazz singer popular in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. While still in her early teens, she left home to pursue a singing career with the Leo … see full wiki
Her voice could be as cool and languid as a mint julep on a warm afternoon. Her voice could be as warm and amused as a confident lover. She could sing sad or happy, sometimes with a smile, often with a shrug. She was Lee Wiley from Oklahoma, blonde and slim, who moved to New York City and never really left. She had effortless style and an impeccable ear for great songs, well known or unknown, and an ability to place you in small, smoke-filled jazz clubs, with cigarettes and highballs, just by listening to her records. Lee Wiley was one of the best of the Thirties, Forties and early Fifties jazz singers. She picked the best jazzmen to back her and had no trouble recruiting them. Jazz musicians who accompanied her included Bunny Berigan, Fats Waller, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, Cy Walter and Jess Stacy.
I suppose she’s largely forgotten now except for those jazz fans who have her records. Count me at the head of the line. But times changed during the Fifties and educated tastes dulled. By the end of the Fifties her brand of cool excellence was finding a smaller and smaller audience. She died at 68 of cancer in 1975.
Some of her best albums still are available. I particularly like Sings Harold Arlen, West of the Moon, Night in Manhattan, A Touch of the Blues, Sings Cole Porter, and Time on My Hands. In my book she is the best of the Arlen interpreters.
Have I got a crush on Lee? Oh, yes. We’re walking down a dark New York street at 2 a.m. The sidewalk is wet with mist. We stop at a closed club where some musicians have gathered to make after-hours music just for themselves. They’ve been waiting for Lee. She drops her fur coat at a table and I sit down. A couple of soft spots come on while she ambles to the bandstand. I recognize Eddie, Billy and Bunny. A waiter comes over and asks if I want a drink. “Bourbon and water,” I say, “tall.” I hear the club owner whisper, “Who is that guy?” “I don’t know,” the waiter says, “but if he’s good enough for Lee he’s good enough.” The musicians start playing and Lee Wiley stands among them. She looks right at me while she sings with that hint of a drawl…
Let's fall in love Why shouldn't we fall in love? Our hearts are made of it Let's take a chance Why be afraid of it
Let's close our eyes and make our own paradise Little we know of it, still we can try To make a go of it
We might have been meant for each other To be or not to be Let our hearts discover
Let's fall in love Why shouldn't we fall in love Now is the time for it, while we are young Let's fall in love.