American pop vocalist
, 1928-2002, whose performing career spanned over 50 years, starting in big band
s, becoming a pop
star with novelty song
s, and ending up a classic interpreter of jazz standard
""She really loves singing, singing just for the hell of it. She opens her mouth, gives a little smile, half-closes her eyes and vocally fondles the lyrics of 'Everything Happens to Me' or 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' or 'I've Got a Crush on You.' And subsequently, listeners wonder why these songs never sounded so good before." --Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner.
"She sings like Spencer Tracy acts." --Mike Nichols
"Rosie" started out with her sister, Betty, on WLW radio in Cincinnati
in the 1940s
, backed by various jazz combo
s and country and western
bands. The Clooney Sisters joined the Tony Pastor band back in 1947
and toured, opening in Atlantic City. In 1949
, Rosemary signed with Columbia records
as a solo artist. Her first release, "Beautiful Brown Eyes," sold half a million copies. But it was an Armenia
n folk song
(updated by William Saroyan
and Ross Bagdasarian
) set to a Mitch Miller
arrangement that featured, of all things, a harpsichord
, that launched her to the top of the charts in 1951
: "Come On-A My House
." A string of hits over the next few years (including "Mambo Italiano
") led to roles in movies (notably White Christmas
) and her own television
show in 1956. She married Jose Ferrer
, and had five kids, including Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks'
Visitors to her Web site will notice a two decade gap in her recording career- the 1960s were difficult for her: rock and roll pushed her style out of popularity, her marriage to Ferrer broke up, there was an affair with Nelson Riddle, and then, while campaigning for Robert Kennedy, he was assassinated with Clooney standing just a few feet away. It wasn't until Bing Crosby asked her to tour again in 1975 that she went back to performing. With her comeback, she began to focus on interpreting jazz standards by American songwriters, including Duke Ellington, Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Billie Holliday, Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Van Heusen, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Irving Berlin.
Her brother, Nick, is still a broadcaster in Cincinnati, and his son is George Clooney (her nephew), which is probably why she got a guest spot on ER, for which she got an Emmy nomination in 1995.
For her contributions to American music, she was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in from the Smithsonian Institution
in 1992 and the Grammy
Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. She died of lung cancer
on June 29, 2002