Topic: Georgia Gibbs
Georgia Gibbs, a versatile singer who starred on the popular show "Your Hit Parade" and reached the top of the charts in the 1950's with covers of songs by black artists, has died. She was 87.
Gibbs died Saturday 9 DEC 2006, at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, family friend Leslie Gottlieb said. The cause was complications from leukemia.
Among her 15 Top 40 hits, mostly for Mercury Records, was the tango-based "Kiss Of Fire", which went to No. 1 in 1952.
But she is known historically - and controversially - as one of the white artists who gained success in the 1950's covering rhythm and blues hits by black performers, sometimes upstaging the original versions with sanitized lyrics. "Tweedle Dee", an adaptation of LaVern Baker's R&B hit reached No. 2 in 1954, while "Dance With Me Henry", another R&B cover, reached No. 1 in 1955 with cleaned up lyrics. The original, "Roll With Me Henry" or "The Wallflower" was by Etta James as an "answer song" to the hit "Work With Me Annie." At that time you weren't allowed to say 'roll because it was considered vulgar," James said in a 1987 Associated Press interview. "So when Georgia Gibbs did her version she renamed it 'Dance With Me, Henry' and it went to No. 1 on the pop charts.
Besides a stint on "Your Hit Parade", the radio and TV show that showcased the most popular songs each week, Gibbs was a regular on programs hosted by Garry Moore, Jimmy Durante and Danny Kaye and was a frequent guest on other radio and early television variety shows.
Other memorable Gibbs recordings included the novelty "If I Knew You Were Coming, Id've Baked a Cake" in the early '50's and her last Top 40 record, "The Hula Hoop Song" in 1958.
Gibbs, along with Pat Boone, Connie Francis and others was profiled this year in the book "Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair With '50's Pop Music", by music critic Karen Schoemer.
Gibbs was born Freda Lipshitz in Worcester, Mass. in 1919, began singing in Boston ballrooms as a teenager, using the name Gibbons, later becoming Georgia Gibbs. As her star rose, Gary Moore began introducing her on the air as "Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs."
Although Gibbs was semiretired after 1960, her singing career spanned more than 60 years. Gibbs was married to Frank Gervasi an author and WWII correspondent for United Press, who died before her. Survivors include a grandson and a brother.