Artist Highlight, Jazz, Music

Anita O’Day

Artist Highlight

This week, I made a playlist of my favorite Anita O’Day tracks to share with you.

Spotify Playlist: Anita O’Day Highlights

Anita O'Day in Newport, RI in 1958Anita O’day (1919 – 2006)


  • Jazz Styles: Bebop, Swing
  • Hometown/Heritage: born Anita Belle Colton in Chicago, Illinois to Irish-American parents
  • Personality: She presented herself as a serious jazz musician, and early in her career often distinguished herself from other “girl singers” by not wearing lavish evening gowns. Instead, she preferred to wear a band jacket and skirt. Her jazz talent was indeed serious, and she is considered to be one of the most skilled jazz bebop vocalists of all time. She also presented herself as a hipster, and spoke with mannerisms and lingo associated with the Beat Generation. Matter-of-fact, Anita O’Day was mentioned by Jack Kerouac in his famous book, On the Road. Her manner of speaking and the content of what she said was certainly considered unladylike. Some of the things she would say about sex, drugs, and alcohol were probably down right shocking to the mainstream folk of the time. Her nickname, Jezebel of Jazz, describes her overall persona as a tough-as-nails, seriously swinging, hard living (smoking, alcohol, heroin) jazz chick.
  • Main Influence: Billie Holiday
  • Cause of Death: suffered declining health with Alzheimer’s disease and died in her sleep while recovering from pneumonia

O’Day left her rocky home as a teen and took the chance to sing wherever she could. She had her big break in 1941 when she was discovered by drummer/bandleader, Gene Krupa. During the big band years, O’Day was known for swinging intensely which was unusual for a female performer. In the 1950’s, she successfully transitioned to the more complex rhythms of bebop. O’Day was lauded for her phrasing and improvisation. She often collaborated with jazz greats like pianist, Oscar Peterson and vibraphonist, Cal Tjader. One of her career defining performances was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 which was featured in the documentary, Jazz on a Summer’s Day. O’Day faded in the 1960’s due to heroin addiction, but later triumphantly conquered her addiction and returned to singing.

Historic Trivia: O’Day’s flirty vocal duet with trumpet player, Roy Eldridge, is one of the earliest interracial vocal duet recordings.
Offbeat Trivia: O’Day attributed her percussive singing style to the surgical removal of her uvula during a childhood tonsillectomy.


Without further delay, here are my most favorite tracks:


  • Let Me Off Uptown (with the Gene Krupa Orchestra and Roy Eldridge)
  • Boogie Blues (with the Gene Krupa Orchestra)
  • Opus One (with the Gene Krupa Orchestra)
  • Georgia On My Mind (with the Gene Krupa Orchestra)
  • Skylark (with the Gene Krupa Orchestra and Roy Eldridge)
  • I Can’t Give You Anything but Love (with The Nat King Cole Trio)


  • Honeysuckle Rose
  • Old Devil Moon (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Stella By Starlight (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Them There Eyes (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Love Me Or Leave Me (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Tenderly (with the Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • Sing, Sing, Sing
  • Sweet Georgia Brown (studio recording)
  • Sweet Georgia Brown (live at the Newport Jazz Festival)
  • Tea For Two (live at the Newport Jazz Festival)
  • Tea For Two (live at Mister Kelly’s)
  • What Is This Thing Called Love?
  • You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To


  • Waiter, Make Mine Blues
  • When Sunny Gets Blue
  • Angel Eyes
  • Boogie Blues
  • You Came A Long Way From St. Louis
  • Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me
  • One More Mile
  • Senor Blues
  • Thanks For The Memory (with Cal Tjader)
  • Under A Blanket of Blue (with Cal Tjader)
  • That’s Your Red Wagon (with Cal Tjader)


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