Valentine to Nancy LaMott

Diva Talk   Valentine to Nancy LaMott
UPDATE: Theatre Divas -- 2/14

UPDATE: Theatre Divas -- 2/14


For those of you who weren't able to attend the memorial for singer Nancy LaMott Feb. 11, I thought I would tell you a little about it.

The huge sanctuary of Saint Paul's Apostle Church at 59th and Amsterdam in New York was jam-packed with hundreds and hundreds of LaMott's family, friends and fans. Before the doors opened the line of mourners stretched literally all the way around the block.

The evening was a beautiful and moving tribute to one of the finest interpreters of American popular song. Father Steven Harris, a close friend of Nancy's, who also performed Nancy's wedding ceremony to actor Peter Zapp two hours before her death, began the evening with a brief speech. His remarks were followed by a video of Nancy singing David Friedman's "Listen to My Heart" at a1991 fundraiser held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Speeches were then given by Nancy's manager Scott Barnes as well as by friends R. Kennard Baker and Bill McGrath. A photo montage of Nancy, from baby to adult, was then shown as her belty rendition of "(You Must Have Been a) Beautiful Baby" played in the background.

It was then time for more touching tributes from lyricist David Zippel, pianist Rick Jensen, singers Lina Koutrakos and Nancy Timpanaro, friend Ted McGee and actress/singer Portia Nelson, who read a lovely poem she had written that Nancy loved. Then her pianist, Christopher Marlowe, along with musicians Jay Leonhart, John Redsecker, Glenn Drewes and Mike Migliore played two of Nancy's signature songs: "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "How Deep Is the Ocean?"

More speeches followed by WQEW's Jonathan Schwartz, arranger Peter Matz (who arranged Nancy's last album, "Listen to My Heart"), lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Kathie Lee Gifford (on video), pianist/arranger Christopher Marlowe and composer David Friedman. Performance clips, ranging from 1978-1995 were then shown, and a final speech was given by her widow, Peter Zapp. The evening ended with a beautiful rendition of David Friedman's "I'll Be Here With You" that Nancy had taped last Valentine's Day for "Good Morning America."

The various speeches evoked wonderful, often funny and sad, memories of Nancy LaMott. Some of the lines that stand out include pianist Christopher Marlowe's "My hands miss the sound of your voice, and I have 70 piano arrangements who miss their singer."

Many of the speakers joked about how much Nancy loved to eat, and her husband recalled that Nancy said if you found a street that had both a Taco Bell and a Mr. Donut on it, "build your house there!"

On a pre-taped video that was shown, Kathie Lee Gifford told how much she and her family had gained during their time with Nancy, who stayed at Gifford's home during her illness, and said she will see Nancy again someday, and hoped that Nancy would teach her how to sing.

Composer David Friedman, who promised Nancy on her deathbed that he wouldn't rest until everyone in the world heard her sing, urged everyone attending to try to help him reach that goal by giving her recordings to five, ten, twenty . . . people. He also explained that there will be more recordings issued posthumously as he has a large amount of unreleased recordings.

A program was given out to all those attending that contained pages of quotes from friends and fans. I've selected a few that I thought you might be interested in reading. But, before I go, I'd like to do my part to try to fulfill David Friedman's promise. LaMott's recordings will soon be available in all record stores, so keep your eyes out for them. If you've never heard her sing, do buy one of her albums . . . you will not be disappointed.

Quotations about Nancy:

From First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton:
Music is unique in its ability to evoke our deepest emotions. We can lose ourselves in a perfect song perfectly sung, and in her short, brilliant career, Nancy LaMott helped to do that over and over again.
The President and I had the great fortune of hearing Nancy perform at the White House on two occasions. We were captivated by her voice, her style, and her spirit. We listened to her heart and she filled our own.
Just the other day, I had one of Nancy's songs playing so loudly that a staff member could not hear me speak. Nancy was truly present, and will be always as her music lives on in all of us.
With gratitude for Nancy and her enchanting gift of song, I am
Sincerely yours,
from a letter to Nancy, dated December 12, 1995

From John Slomar:
Nancy, it's difficult for me to put into words how very much I enjoy and admire you and the music you make. Your voice is certainly God-given; what you do with it is divine. Your honesty and simplicity and lovely, light-filled choices never cease to amaze me. You are my favorite singer and my favorite singing teacher. You have been such a healing force at times in my life. I inevitably learn much about love and life and the human condition from your albums, but hearing you with a full orchestra was bliss. I was thrilled by Listen to My Heart and awestruck by We Can Be Kind, but So In Love sent me to the moon. What a gorgeous body of work. Thanks, Nancy. Thank you for sharing your heart with me--and for helping me clean my apartment.

From Michael Portantiere:
Those who believe in a traditional concept of heaven may wish to imagine Nancy LaMott headlining in some celestial cabaret, captivating Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and other greats who never got to hear her breathtaking renditions of their songs. The rest of us can hope that Nancy's spirit will hover whenever her glorious recordings delight our ears and touch our hearts.

From Charles Hix:
I don't totally understand the mystery of certain singers. A rare few possess something beyond talent that enters the realm of spirit. You listen to them sing, and you have a glimpse into their interior beings. Such singers touch you in intimate ways. Nancy was one of them. Before we ever saw her, we loved her for her singing and for what her singing revealed about her.
And then we encountered her in person for the first time. I suspect that even if she were less of a singer, we would have loved her anyway, because of her character.
I believe Nancy opened her set with Listen To My Heart. She was wearing a black dress that did not fit perfectly. Nor did her shoes. She wasn't very long into her performance before she took her newly purchased, expensive heels off and emitted an enormous sigh of relief. Her manner was utterly winning. Given the lack of air conditioning, she was glistening with perspiration--and singing like a tiny, perhaps mischievous angel.
Later in the year, we made a trip into New York expressly to see Phillip Officer at The Algonquin. As it happened, Nancy was in the audience too. I was seated so I could easily watch the expressions on her face. She beamed encouragement to Phillip. It was a pleasure looking at her. After the set, I debated with myself for a few moments, then I approached her table. I apologized for interrupting, then said, "You once sang You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby for me on my birthday." Nancy smiled and answered, "Yes, I remember." I asked if she would rerun to the Stockbridge Cabaret this summer. "Yes," she answered. I pledged that Bob and I would see her then. I wish this could be true.

From Laurie Rocen:
I'm not used to putting my feelings into words.
How can one adequately pay tribute to someone who touched the lives of so many?
I agonized over this for weeks, afraid that I wouldn't do justice to Nancy, her memory and what she means to me. Then I just accepted as fact that I will never be able to adequately express the impact Nancy has had on me and how she will always be a part of my life. Meeting Nancy absolutely changed my life. She was very spiritual and by far the most positive person I've ever known and, by example, effected many changes in me and the way I view the world.

This past October, two months before what would have been Nancy's 44th birthday, I bought a perfect birthday card for her but she never got to see it. It's a Saturday Series Hallmark card by K. Ebner. I'd like to share it now:
When I'm mad at my own stupidity, you ask me to forgive myself: When I dwell on the bad times, you teach me to move on. When I succeed, you encourage my joy, so when it's your birthday, I celebrate you.
People were often drawn to Nancy because of her incomparable talent and brilliance as a performer, but stayed because of her kindness, warmth, humor, humanity, generosity of spirit, and unconditional love. Many of us were privileged to have become a part of her extended family of friends. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines friend as "a person whom one knows well and is fond of; an intimate associate; a close acquaintance." This doesn't quite describe my feelings. Webster's defines love as "a strong affection for or attachment or devotion to a person. A strong, usually passionate affection for a person." I believe Nancy and I were soulmates and I loved her.

Nancy's death left a big, empty, dark void inside me but the extraordinary miracle that was Nancy is a timeless, priceless, and unique treasure who will always fill a very special place in my heart. The memory of the lessons taught, the advice given, the pain and love shared will be honored forever.
I'm very angry and sad about Nancy's death, but at the same time, feel so very blessed to have been a part of her life.
I think about, celebrate, and talk to Nancy every day. Nancy, I'll do whatever I can to help David and Scott share your music with the world.
I miss you terribly.
I'll love you always.

From Carol Hall/Steven Lutvak:
I'll imagine you a song... And it will take me by the hand... And it will stay inside my soul and set me free... I'll imagine you a song until I finally understand... that what that means is you are always part of me . . .
All our days on earth are measures, all we ever have is what we learn to give... If we're wise, we look for treasures every single, breathing moment that we live... And if I believed in endings, then I never would have loved you for this long... But I just believe in music... So I guess that I'll imagine you a song . . .

From Terry Teachout:
I'm still trying to come to terms with Nancy's death. I feel as if someone had dug my heart out of my chest with a sharp spoon. I suppose there is nothing left to do now but remember her, and make sure other people remember. I went home and wrote everything down, everything I could remember about the seventeen months I knew her, so that I'd have it all to read someday when I could bear to look at it. It wasn't very much time, but it was time enough to put her at the center of my life, and of Liz's life too.

From Julie Halston:
Nancy always said she wanted my arms. Why anyone would want my twiggish unformed arms is beyond me, but still, Nancy wanted them. So I said, "Fine; I'll give you my arms for your voice! That's a fair swap, huh?"
Actually, Nancy, I would give my arms to have you back with us. But if that's not possible, I will use these arms the way you used your voice--to excite, to envelop, to enchant, to embrace.
Hopefully, all performers will learn what you knew instinctively: Simple is best, and just trust the work. God, if we could just remember that.

From Andrew Velez:
It was my privilege to do what may have been Nancy's last interview.
Her voice had a childlike quality, as did Nancy herself. Giving was part of her nature, and in the singing she was like a child saying, "This present is for you. I hope it's good enough. I want to make you happy." She said to me, "There is a sound to my voice. It's not a perfect sound. My sound--I don't know where it comes from. I know that it calls to people--I accept responsibility for it, and keep trying to go there. I'm just trying to design a decent life."
We hugged our goodbyes, and I wistfully promised everything was "gonna be all right," in response to which, not kidding herself, she nodded appreciatively without assenting.
What a loss it is to have her gone, and yet she was right, because after a while, it will be her sound, that heart-stirring voice which she called "not perfect," that will continue to call--and we will go there.

"Let Me Be The Music"
Music and Lyrics by David Friedman and Portia Nelson

Seasons come and seasons go
And somehow, they were meant to show
That life and love are never really gone.
So when my journey here is through
I'm certain there is just a new "hello,"
And so when I travel on...
Let me be the music...
The music of love I have known.
Let me be the melodies
In the wind and the trees
That sing to the lost and alone.
Let me be the sweet refrain
In the sound of the rain
Or a rippling stream...
Let me be the lullabies
That close the eyes
Of children when they dream.

For music has no walls or bonds
It bridges time and space.
It only asks the senses to surrender.
It sweeps us to the stars, and makes us
Warm in its embrace.
It has no fences.
It has no gender.
So let me be the music...
The beautiful music of love.
Let me be the voices of spring
That rejoice in the things
That blossom and grow.
Oh, let me be the music...
To come again as music
The beautiful music of love...
When I go...
Oh, let me be the music of love....
When I go.

"This is cabaret--there's always an encore."
--Nancy La Mott

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