Doris Day

  • Singer born Doris Kappelhoff in 1922 in Cincinnati Ohio. Died on May 13, 2019, of pneumonia.
  • Kappelhoff’s father was a music teacher and choirmaster, and her mother loved the popular music of the day. She took dance lessons as a child, and planned for a career in dance. At 15 years old, on the car trip to Hollywood to start her dance career, she was in a car accident, severely injuring her leg, and ending her aspirations to become a dancer. Recuperating in Cincinnati, she lived above a tavern in Cincinnati that her uncle owned. Listening to the jukebox at the tavern, she fell in love with the swing sound of the big bands, and she sang along with Ella Fitzgerald songs. She began to work with a vocal coach, who got Kappelhoff an appearance on a Cincinnati radio program, earning a regular spot on the show. She started to perform at a restaurant as well as with a local bandleader, who suggested she change her last name – at 17, she became Doris Day, choosing Day because of the popularity of her rendition of the song Day After Day from the early 30s.
  • She worked with several bands, including Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Brown had been performing the song Sentimental Journey for several years, but had not recorded it. In 1945, with Day as vocalist, it was recorded and it became Day’s first #1 hit. The song became an anthem for World War II troops returning home from the war. Over the next year, with Day as vocalist for Brown’s band, she had 6 more top 10 hits, including My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time (peaking at #1), Till the End of Time (peaking at #3) and You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart) (peaking at #4). Day became a huge favorite with the public – her style made audiences feel like she was singing personally to each listener rather than to the entire crowd.
  • Day took a 2 year break, having a child and enduring the break up of her marriage. She was preparing to return to Cincinnati and end her music career, but before she did, she attended a party in Hollywood, and songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn heard her sing. The songwriters recommended her to audition for a role in the film Romance On the High Seas, even though she had never acted. She was shocked to get the leading lady role, and in 1948 the film was a hit.
  • Day began a 20 year career as a singer and actress. She starred in comedies, musicals, dramas and thrillers, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in the film Pillow Talk. By the early 60s, she was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars – she was the top yearly box-office earner in the U.S. 4 times and in 1989 she was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.
  • During her film career, she remained a huge success in music. Between 1949 and 1965, she released 30 studio albums, several of which were soundtracks from films in which she starred. She had 3 more singles that reached #1 – Love Somebody, A Guy is a Guy, and Secret Love, and 2 singles reach #2 – It’s Magic, and her signature song from 1956, Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). She recorded over 650 songs, with 56 of them reaching the Billboard top 40, and 20 reaching the top 10.
  • By the mid 60s, with the popularity of rock music and the sexual revolution starting to influence the culture, the wholesomeness of Doris Day was losing its appeal. In 1968, her manager and husband Martin Melcher died. Day soon discovered that Melcher had squandered her earnings, leaving her with serious debts. Melcher had committed her to a television series just prior to her death without her knowledge. Day hated the idea of a TV show, but given her financial problems, she agreed to go on, and in the fall of 1968, the first episode of The Doris Day Show aired. The show ran for 5 years, 128 episodes, and was very popular.
  • After her television series, Day largely retired from acting, and only 2 albums of music were released – The Love Album was released in 1994 (though it was recorded in 1967) and My Heart was released in 2011. The final album reached #9 in the UK – at 89 years old, she was the oldest artist to have a top 10 album in the UK. In retirement, she was an advocate of animal welfare – in 1978, she founded the Doris Day Pet Foundation, which became Doris Day Animal Foundation, which operates today. In 1987, she formed the Doris Day Animal League, which merged into the Humane Society in 2006.
  • In 2004, Doris Day was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a legend in popular music and films for 2 decades. I remember watching her sitcom television show – it came on Monday night at 9:30 pm Eastern time, right after Here’s Lucy – if I was a good boy, Mom and Dad let me stay up late to watch it (unless of course Monday night football was more interesting). Watch Day sing Que Sera, Sera, with clips of her singing it in the Alfred Hitchcock suspense-thriller film The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which she co-starred with James Stewart – the film won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

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