I happen to love all kinds of music but more than anything else I love The Divas. You know the types: singing sensations who have been blessed with extraordinary musical talent, undeniable charisma and, in a few cases, possible delusions of grandeur (even though, in truth, such singers are grand). Thanks to the Library, I’ve been able to “discover” the amazing singers of previous generations (I hate to say of past generations because, to me, that implies that their impact has somehow diminished with time). I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon my favorite Divas of all time:
The Greatest Star/Diva—Barbra Streisand: I had been wholly unfamiliar with Barbra Streisand’s work until a few years ago. The first record I’d ever heard of hers was The Movie Album featuring the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” (one of my favorite songs of all time). I remember being in awe of the power, clarity and beauty of her voice, thinking I wanna hear every song this woman has ever sung! I haven’t yet, but I figured I should start with a greatest hits compilation (The Essential Barbra Streisand is a great place to start for the uninitiated). It also occurred to me to read up on the Brooklyn-born legend so I’ve picked up a fascinating book about her, Barbra: The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen. It’s a captivating, fast-paced read that, if any of it is to be believed, casts Streisand as the Diva of all Divas; a woman of magnificent talent, unfettered ambition and enormous ego (but what’s a diva without an ego?).
Diva Supreme—Diana Ross: I’ve always loved the Supremes, probably a little more than I’d enjoyed Diana Ross’ solo work but she’s another unabashed Diva. DCPL has lots of music by Diana Ross, as a Supreme (we have this great box set, covered in magenta velvet, that I really like) and as a soloist. Also for fans of unauthorized biographies, such as myself, J. Randy Taraborrelli has written a fun, action-packed tome about this diva.
Over The Rainbow Diva—Judy Garland: I’ve been a fan of Judy Garland since seeing her in The Wizard of Oz as a youngster. Her voice is an instrument of heartbreaking beauty; rich and soaring with its distinctive vibrato . The Library also has lots of music and several books about the magnificent Ms. Garland.
Material Diva—Madonna: Arguably, Madonna can’t exactly hold a candle (vocally, at least) to the aforementioned Divas, even though she’s delivered many of the seminal pop classics of the late 20th century. But she is remarkable in her ability to re-imagine and reinvent herself with the times. She’s also got several tell-all books devoted to her mythic and perhaps even cutthroat journey to the top, including one by her brother Christopher Ciccone.
I Will Always Love This Diva—Dolly Parton: I’ve always admired Dolly Parton as a talented, ambitious and shrewd performer, businesswoman and artist. Also, she happens to be one of my all-time favorite songwriters, having penned such classics as “Coat of Many Colors,” “Joshua” and “I Will Always Love You” (which has been covered by another Diva, Whitney Houston). Her way with words and her one of a kind, crystalline voice (not to mention her country-girl-made-good sense of style) put her into a class all by herself.