Born: September 13, 1922
Died: November 1, 2008
Los Angeles, California
Obituary: Her first album for Capitol, "Voice of the Xtabay" in 1950, sold half a million copies. Listeners were bewitched by her warbling, almost unearthly song stylings, backed by pulsating Latin rhythms. Wrote a reviewer at the time, "Not being a musician I can't adequately describe the motion of sound in the number called 'Birds.' It begins in contralto, takes on the peculiar sounds of the birds, coasts along on coloratura and ends in what I would call a dirty trumpet howl."
During the subsequent decade, she became a lounge music icon, recording albums of westernized arrangements of Incan and South American folk songs with producers such as Les Baxter and Billy May. Her exotic, sultry looks, with high cheeks bones, raven hair, dramatic eyebrows, and heavily made-up, almond-shaped eyes added to her allure. She played Carnegie Hall, starred in films, and, in 1951, acted in the musical Flahooley as a foreign princess who brings Aladdin's lamp to an American toy factory to have it repaired.
The show had a score was by Sammy Fain and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. But Ms. Sumac's four numbers were written by her husband since 1942, bandleader Moisés Vivanco. Ms. Sumac returned to the stage in 1990 to play the role of Heidi in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, in Long Beach, CA.
Her fame fell off in the 1960s. She had a resurgence of sorts in the 1990s, as lounge music became popular again. Her songs were used in films like "The Big Lebowski," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Death to Smoochy" and sampled by the Black Eyed Peas. But she performed only sporadically and remained a recluse, entertaining few friends. She and Vivanco divorced in 1957. Ms. Sumac is survived by their son, Charles.
|Penn & Teller: The Refrigerator Tour
Apr. 3, 1991 - Jun. 30, 1991
|Penn & Teller
Dec. 1, 1987 - Mar. 20, 1988
May 14, 1951 - Jun. 16, 1951