Even with birthdays separated by 60 years and 10 days, entertainers Nellie McKay and Doris Day are cut from the same cloth. The two share a passion for animal rights, a sunny gosh–gee–swell positivity and a love for the Great American Songbook—as well as a depth, complexity and progressivism that belies the toothy grins for which both are known.
McKay’s Verve Records salute to the woman born Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff, Normal As Blueberry Pie – A Tribute to Doris Day, features the iconic New York singer/songwriter interpreting a colorful selection of songs from Day’s extensive recordings—with the smart arrangements and crackerjack instrumentalists listeners have come to expect.
“We were trying to connect with the many time periods in Doris’ life,” McKay explains, “from the big bands to the post–McCarthy era.”
Normal As Blueberry Pie features 12 songs handpicked from over 600 recordings of Ms. Day's, as well as an original by McKay. The album bridges the big band era of the ‘40s (“Sentimental Journey”,“Dig It”) with Day’s later film career (“The Very Thought of You” from Young Man With a Horn, “Send Me No Flowers” from the film of the same name).
So why Doris? What is it about this mid–century star that so captivated a teenager coming of age in northeastern Pennsylvania? ‘I was initially attracted to her optimism and her gaiety,” McKay says. “Her approach to life is irresistible.”
But as the young prodigy continued exploring, she discovered Day’s sunny smiles hid reservoirs of strength, with the star remaining “America’s sweetheart” through a behind–the–scenes horror show: abusive husbands, personal trials and financial calamity. McKay quotes Greta Garbo to summarize Day’s mysterious appeal: “Anyone who has a continuous smile on (her) face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”