Barbara Cook, Shining Star, Is Gone: Three Facts You May Not Know

Singer had abiding passion for life, music and performing, even in later years

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 09 Aug 2017 at 4:44 PM

One of Broadway’s biggest and most talented stars, Barbara Cook, passed away Tuesday of respiratory failure at the age of 89.

She was surrounded by friends and family at her Manhattan home and is survived by her only son, Adam LeGrant.

Best known for her breathtaking soprano voice, showcased in such Broadway productions as "Candide" in 1956, "The Music Man" in 1957 (for which she won a Tony Award), and "She Loves Me" in 1963, Cook spent her later years as a successful cabaret singer in clubs and concert halls.

She was a performer who never lost her passion — and impressively never lost any power in her voice. In celebration of her life and career, here's a look at three facts you may not have known about the singer.

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They only prove how deeply committed she was to her art and how passionate she was about life and the stage.

1.) She sang until the end. To celebrate her 80th birthday back in 2007, Cook decided to put on two concerts with the New York Philharmonic. While most singers hang up their hats in their later years, Cook remained a performer well into her 80s.

In an interview in 2011 with the Associated Press, she actually expressed an opinion many fans had been sharing for years: She was only getting better with age.

"Of course, I think I've gotten better at it," she said. "I still think this is a work in progress. I do. Seriously. As the years go by, I have more and more courage to go deeper and deeper and deeper."

2.) She was self-taught. Like some of the greatest artists, Cook was not a typically trained performer. She reportedly hated vocal lessons as a child and avoided a vocal coach. Her ability came naturally from a very young age.

"I don't remember when I didn't sing. I just always sang," she said in 2011 to AP. "I think I breathed and I sang."

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3.) She overcame addiction problems. The 1960s were not kind to Cook. She suffered from alcoholism, a weight gain, and a slowing down of work. She admitted in her 2016 memoir that she fell so far she was actually reduced to stealing: "I was so broke that I was stealing food from the supermarket by slipping sandwich meat in my coat pocket."

Cook's fall from grace would later only serve as a platform for a comeback, both personally and professionally. She quit drinking in the '70s and redefined herself as a solo artist by playing in New York City venues, including Carnegie Hall. She released numerous best-selling albums and had a second career that matched, if not overshadowed, her first career as one of Broadway's favorite and most talented performers.

(photo credit, homepage image: Rubenstein, Flickr; photo credit, article image: Joella Marano, Flickr)

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  2. #singer
  3. barbara cook
  4. Broadway star
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