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Susannah McCorkle - Jazz Singer Dead at 55

SOURCE: Published: 2001-05-21
Singer Takes Fatal Plunge

Susannah McCorkle, a silken-voiced jazz vocalist and mainstay of the city's cabaret scene, apparently jumped to her death early yesterday from her upper West Side Manhattan apartment. She was 55. McCorkle, who performed in clubs and concert halls throughout the country, was found lifeless in front of her building at W. 86th St. at 3:45 a.m., police said.

In her bright, orderly apartment, she had set out a will and other legal papers, along with instructions to scatter her ashes in Central Park, and to make sure someone cared for her two Angora cats, according to a police source.

The apparent suicide of the critically acclaimed McCorkle, who survived breast cancer, shocked her friends and music industry associates.

“I knew she was upset in her personal life, but I didn't think she'd do anything like this," said her publicist, Bryan Utman, crying.

McCorkle, a statuesque singer with a trademark pixie haircut, was described as cerebral as well as sensuous, whether performing romantic Gershwin standards or singing in Portuguese the works of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Tony Bennett once called her “a creative and wonderful pioneer, a very daring singer."

She was a regular at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room, and was due to appear for her 11th engagement there in the coming months.

“It's a shock she was very bright, extremely talented," said Arthur Pomposello, manager of the Oak Room. “In cabaret, she might have been the best jazz artist. She had a wonderful voice, great deliverance."

“It's a total shock. I just saw her at the MAC [Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs] awards dinner in April," said friend Jamie deRoy, who performed with McCorkle at Don't Tell Mama, a midtown cabaret, last year.

McCorkle was known for a gimmick-free style and had a repertoire of 3,000 songs.

She was born in Berkeley, Calif., and attended the university there, majoring in languages. She also was a published writer of fiction, and works on jazz. She had lived on the upper West Side for years and loved New York, friends said. She once said during a performance here, “Your relationship with the city is just as important as any other relationship."

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