Without a golden wand or mystic charms, fantastic things began when Doris Day lifted her voice in song. Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff of Cincinnati, Ohio intended to pursue a career as a dancer, but a car accident at age thirteen curtailed her plans. “I couldn’t walk for almost three years,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. She then added with characteristic spirit and optimism, “That was the greatest thing that happened. Instead of dancing, I sang. They carried me three times a week up a stairway to my music teacher.”
Her singing career began on her hometown airwaves as she was discovered on a local Saturday morning amateur program, Carlin’s Carnival. It wasn’t long before young Doris “graduated” to live and radio appearances first with Barney Rapp’s Cincinnati-based band and then with Bob Crosby’s group in Chicago. A name change had come, too; on Rapp’s advice, the starlet rechristened herself “Doris Day” because of the popularity of the song “Day After Day” in her repertoire. The rest, as they say, is history. Doris passed away this morning at her home in Carmel, California, at the age of 97, having added warmth and luster to the realms of radio, motion pictures, television, and of course, records.
Doris Day’s grace, kindness, generosity, tenacity, and vivacious spirit characterized her long career, from her early days captivating audiences during World War II as Les Brown’s “girl singer” through her beloved Warner Bros. films opposite stars like Rock Hudson and James Stewart, Columbia Records classics, television programs like The Doris Day Show and Doris Day’s Best Friends, and her remarkable work with The Doris Day Animal Foundation. Her collection of signature songs grew over the years encompassing such all-time standards as “Sentimental Journey,” “It’s Magic,” “Secret Love,” and “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” Day’s final studio album, 2011’s acclaimed My Heart, became an international hit and earned Doris her first spot on the Billboard 200 in 47 years; in fact, The Second Disc’s coverage became our most-read article of the year, attesting to the artist’s powerful longevity, versatility, and relevance.
Though she was frequently described as “the girl next door,” there was much more to this Academy Award-nominated actress, Grammy-winning singer, and activist. In an interview with her ardent admirer Paul McCartney in 2011, she revealed her secret as an interpretive vocalist. Crediting her early vocal coach Grace Raine, Doris reflected, “She decided I should have three lessons a week and we couldn’t afford that so she gave me three for the price of one. She was a wonderful lady who had retired from the WLW Radio [a Cincinnati talk radio station]. She knew that the words meant so much to me and that’s what she really liked. And they’ve always meant so much to me. I’m singing to someone.” Doris Day has passed away, but she’s not really gone. Her inspirational, crusading work for animal rights will continue via her foundation, and she will continue singing to all of us, taking us all on a sentimental journey to happier times. Thank you, Doris. We cherish you.
A Note from Joe: I’ve had the enormous privilege of writing liner notes for Doris’ beautiful music on CD, and it was impossible not to be touched and moved by both her talent and her spirit. Her work and legacy will continue to be honored here at The Second Disc.