25 December 2008

IN MEMORIAM: Eartha Kitt, sultry songstress (17 January 1927 - 25 December 2008)

Again were the shining lights of this Christmas dimmed upon receipt of word of the passing of legendary American songstress Eartha Kitt. A provocative woman who was unafraid of controversy (as she displayed with her famous anti-Vietnam comments, made at a White House luncheon, that allegedly made Lady Bird Johnson cry), she perfected her blend of an exotically beautiful physique with a voice like flowing lava to rise from humble beginnings in South Carolina to epitomize the trend-setting Broadway diva.

Without question, Kitt's was not a great voice; certainly not after the manner of the ripely beautiful sounds of Della Reese or Etta James. Kitt was unquestionably a great singer, however: when she sang a song like 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,' the haunting huskiness of her timbre was the smoke that tangled around the listener until he inhaled deeply, drawing her in. Rather than sacrificing her individuality for the 'bright lights' as did so many of her contemporaries, Kitt proved that her unique spirit shone brighter than half-hearted conventionality.

As with Callas, after every analysis and attempt to dissect, interpret, and classify her, she remained simply and gloriously Eartha Kitt.