Bobby Short

Cabaret singer with a love of Cole Porter

Bobby Short was one of New York's greatest cabaret singers; his piano-playing and singing were as immaculate as his appearance. He excelled in the intimate Café Carlyle and he loved the great songs of the 1930s and 1940s. Cole Porter's family gave him a special award on the centenary of Porter's birth in 1991 for maintaining his legacy.

Robert Waltrip Short, pianist and singer: born Danville, Illinois 15 September 1924; (one adopted son); died New York 21 March 2005.

Bobby Short was one of New York's greatest cabaret singers; his piano-playing and singing were as immaculate as his appearance. He excelled in the intimate Café Carlyle and he loved the great songs of the 1930s and 1940s. Cole Porter's family gave him a special award on the centenary of Porter's birth in 1991 for maintaining his legacy.

Robert Waltrip Short was born into a poor black family in Danville, Illinois in 1924. He was ninth of 10 children and he taught himself to play the piano by copying the songs he heard on the radio. By the age of nine, he was performing in clubs around Danville and was even performing Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady". His mother took him to Chicago and he became known as the "Miniature King of Swing". He played on stage with Louis Armstrong and worked at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Because he wore white tie and tails, he acquired a second sobriquet, the "Black and White Baby", which became the title of his childhood memoir in 1971.

Completing his schooling, he played in clubs in Danville and then in 1948 he moved to Los Angeles for a residency. He appeared in London and Paris and then signed with Atlantic Records in New York, making the albums Songs by Bobby Short (1955) and Speaking of Love (1956). He said that his criterion for selecting material was that "first a song has to be beautiful." His clear enunciation brought out the best in the lyrics and he would add some Harlem vaudeville licks to his sophisticated playing.

In 1968 he performed in concert with the highly respected singer Mabel Mercer in Manhattan's Town Hall, which led to two popular albums, Mabel Mercer and Bobby Short at Town Hall (1968) and Mercer and Short: Second Town Hall Concert (1969). His other albums include Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter (1971), Bobby Short Celebrates Rodgers and Hart (1975), K-R-A-Z-Y For Gershwin (1990), How's Your Romance? (1997) and You're the Top: love songs of Cole Porter (1999).

Also in 1968 Short signed a deal with Café Carlyle, working in their lounge six nights a week for eight months a year. He played for four Presidents at the White House and he worked with several symphony orchestras including the Boston Pops. He was nominated for a Grammy for Late Night at the Café Carlyle (1993). He was awarded an arts degrees and he set up a fellowship in his home town.

Woody Allen loved his work, featuring him in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and using his version of Cole Porter's "I Happen To Like New York" on the credits of Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Short appeared in the films Splash with Tom Hanks (1984), Blue Ice with Michael Caine (1992) and For Love or Money with Michael J. Fox (1993). In 2000 the Library of Congress designated Short a Living Legend as part of its bicentennial celebration.

Short left the Café Carlyle in 2004 with the intention of touring. He joked, "One day I might learn to read music properly, but Erroll Garner once told me, 'Man, who's gonna pay to hear you read?' "

Spencer Leigh



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive / Marketing Research Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn