Billy Eckstine's Ballads 1947-1951

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In 1947, vocalist Billy Eckstine became a solo performer, much the way Frank Sinatra had in 1942. Signing with MGM, Eckstine played to the young female market that dreamed of love. At first marketed to the Black urban market, Eckstine on MGM crossed over to the pop charts, racking up 18 hits between 1947 and '51. Lanky with movie-star looks and a bass-baritone voice, Eckstine specialized humid, romantic ballads that took Sinatra's sensitive male to a different level. Instead of playing the vulnerability card to charm female listeners, Eckstine left it all on the radio or in the recording studio with a deep and powerful operatic, crooning style.

The photo above was taken by Martha Holmes for Life magazine and appeared in the April 25, 1950 issue. It showed Eckstine in New York surrounded by smitten white female fans. At the time, Holmes's image was considered so risque that an editor had to get Henry Luce, the magazine's publisher, to sign off on its publication. Luce gave the green light, insisting it run. Letters of protest followed its publication, and many Blacks, including Harry Belafonte, felt a barrier had been broken when the image appeared nationally. [

Here are 10 Eckstine ballads on MGM, many of which may be new to you, recorded between 1947 and 1951:

Here's I'm Out to Forget Tonight in 1947...



Here's I'm Falling for You in 1947...



Here's Somehow in 1948...



Here's My Destiny in 1949...



Here's I Guess I'll Have to Dream the Rest in 1950...



Here's When You Return in 1950...



Here's I'm So Crazy for Love in 1950...



Here's Only a Moment Ago in 1950...



Here's Once in 1951...



And here's As Long As I Live in 1951, with a Shorty Rogers arrangement for Woody Herman...



Bonus: Here's Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries in 1951, with another Shorty Rogers arrangement, this time with Eckstine singing a duet with Herman...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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