'White Christmas': A Concert With Rosemary Clooney

Dec 24, 2012

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Merry Christmas. Today we have something truly special, one of my favorite recordings in our archive. It's an onstage concert and interview with Rosemary Clooney, recorded in 1997, five years before her death. Christmas is a perfect time to listen back to this because she starred with Bing Crosby in the classic 1954 film "White Christmas."

Clooney had big pop hits in the 1950s like "Come On to My House," "Hey There" and "Mambo Italiano." In the '70s, '80s and '90s, she made a splendid series of jazz albums on Concord Records. The performance we're going to hear featured her music director John Oddo at the piano with Charlie McCarthy(ph), saxophone; Larry Souza(ph), trumpet, Seward McCain(ph), bass; and Colin Bailey, drums.

Here's Rosemary Clooney and me recorded at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco as part of the City Arts and Lecture Series. I thank Sydney Goldstein(ph) of City Arts, who produced the event.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY")

ROSEMARY CLOONEY: Am I the only one in blue beads in the room tonight? You think so?

(Singing) Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease. Gonna make a sentimental journey to renew old memories. I got my bag, I got my reservations, spent each dime I could afford. Like a child in wild anticipation, I love to hear that all aboard.

(Singing) Seven, that's the time we leave at, seven. I'll be waiting up for heaven, countin' every mile of railroad track that takes me back. Never thought my heart could be so yearning. Why did I decide to roam? I'm gonna make this sentimental journey, sentimental journey home.

(Singing) I never thought my heart could be so yearning. Why did I decide to roam? I gotta make this sentimental journey, sentimental journey home, sentimental journey home, sentimental journey home.

(APPLAUSE)

GROSS: That was wonderful.

CLOONEY: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

GROSS: I would like to go back with you to your childhood, when you first started performing.

CLOONEY: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: That far?

GROSS: You used to sing with your sister Betty.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: And when you were girls, you sang together, and one of the places that you performed was - was it your grandfather who was the mayor of Maysville?

CLOONEY: Yes, yes, right.

GROSS: And I know you performed at his campaigns.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: So set the scene for me. What was it like when you were girls performing for the campaign of your grandfather in Maysville, Kentucky. What did you sing? What were you like onstage?

CLOONEY: Well, there wasn't a stage first of all. We - he was very smart. He used us to gather a crowd, you see. That was - we were kind of shills.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: We just, we would stand on the street corners and sing songs that he liked particularly. (Singing) There was an old spinning wheel in the parlor, and there's an old covered bridge...

Really old songs. And one of them was "Danny Boy," of course, because his name was Clooney. My other grandfather's name was Guilfoyle(ph), so, you know, there it was.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Did you like performing, or were you reluctantly trotted out to perform?

CLOONEY: I don't remember. I just remember always singing and always knowing that I would sing.

GROSS: When you were a girl, your parents divorced, and you and your sister lived alternatively at your maternal and paternal grandparents' houses. How did it change your world when your parents separated and left you?

CLOONEY: Well, you know, they weren't around a lot to begin with. Daddy was - spent a lot of time at various saloons in Maysville. There weren't too many, but there were enough for him.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: My mother, on the other hand, was - she wanted to go somewhere else, somewhere besides Maysville, Kentucky. She worked in a ladies' dress store, and I know that she had a lot of kind of salesmanship and kind of attitude. My sister was a lot like her in that way. But she went to Lexington to work, after all somebody had to send some money home when we were living with her mother especially because my grandmother Guilfoyle had nine kids, and she was left a widow when the youngest was three. So she needed the money.

GROSS: So did you feel abandoned when they separated?

CLOONEY: There were so many people around us all the time, so many relatives that I never felt abandoned. Sometimes I would have liked a little more privacy, to tell you the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Well, I asked you to choose a song to sing this evening that would evoke your childhood in Kentucky.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: And so you're going to sing "Danny Boy," which you also recorded on your "Demi-Centennial" album. Tell us why you chose this song and what it means to you.

CLOONEY: Well actually, it gets the Irish song out of the way for all the relatives.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: Why didn't you do an Irish song, Rosemary? A nice Irish song would have been nice in the album. Do you know how many times I've heard that? So I get "Danny Boy" right out of the way, first song on the album "Danny Boy," that's it.

GROSS: This, though, you do this so beautifully. Would you sing it for us now?

CLOONEY: I will, Terry, thank you, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANNY BOY")

CLOONEY: (Singing) Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling from glen to glen, and down the mountain side. The summer's gone, and all the leavers are falling. It's you, it's you must go and I must bide. But come ye back when summer's in the meadow or when the valley's hushed and white with snow It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow. Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

(Singing) But come ye back when summer's in the meadow or when the valley's hushed and white with snow. It's I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow. Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

(APPLAUSE)

GROSS: I think that just kind of sums up one of the many reasons I love Rosemary Clooney. You can take a song I've heard a million times and make me hear it in a way I've never heard it before.

You and your sister Betty started singing professionally I guess in the mid-1940s, and you sang with the Tony Pastor Band, you know, great gig for two young girls. You were still girls.

CLOONEY: Yes, Betty was 15.

GROSS: And how old were you?

CLOONEY: Eighteen.

GROSS: You were so young that your uncle had to be your official guardian and chaperon.

CLOONEY: Yes, yes, Uncle George, yes.

GROSS: So here you are traveling with this big band of, of course, all men, two young girls with your uncle as the chaperon. Was that embarrassing for you to have your uncle traveling with you?

CLOONEY: There was kind of no choice, you know, because they said we couldn't sign a contract because we didn't have - so he became our legal guardian. So it was Uncle George or no job. So actually no, there was no problem with that at all. But to get away from him was difficult.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Did you want to?

CLOONEY: Oh yeah, sure. We tried everything in the world. See yeah, Betty and I also smoked very early on, see, couldn't find any cigarettes because George didn't want us to smoke. So I said to my sister Betty: Why don't you kind of get friendly with the boy singer, because he smokes, and then get a couple of cigarettes? We tried; it didn't work.

GROSS: OK, so there was the boy singer...

CLOONEY: No because the boy singer went back and told Uncle George - fink.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: What did it mean to be the girl singer in the band?

CLOONEY: Well, that's - well, there were two of us, so yes we were the girl singers. And we sat on the side of the bandstand, and mostly we would make up dirty lyrics to other songs.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: Just for the two of us.

GROSS: You set me up. Now I'm going to make you sing one.

CLOONEY: No, you can't. You cannot. I cannot do it.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: No, I have grandchildren out there.

GROSS: Oh, OK.

We'll hear more of that 1997 concert and interview with Rosemary Clooney after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: We're listening back to a concert and conversation with Rosemary Clooney recorded in 1997 at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. When we left off, we were talking about the start of her career, singing with the Tony Pastor Band.

Now this was the period right after World War II.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: And the songs that were popular during the second world war had such emotional value for people, and I'm sure you were singing some of those songs, yes?

CLOONEY: Surely.

GROSS: What do those songs mean to you? And what was your experience of the second world war?

CLOONEY: Well, my grandmother had four kids in the service, and so there were four stars on the flag in the window. And there were a lot of those flags around, you know. And - and I remember seeing all the movies, you know, with - all the movies that were made during the second world war with all the stars from - I loved the Paramount one with Bing and Bob and Dorothy Lamour and Betty Hutton. Yeah, I liked all of that.

We missed the people that were away. I remember when the war started. I remember the Sunday that President Roosevelt came on the radio, and I remember my grandmother crying and realizing what it meant for her and then realizing what it meant to the rest of us, yeah.

GROSS: I asked you to choose a song from the World War II period, a song very popular then, and you chose to sing "I'll Be Seeing You." What does this song mean to you?

CLOONEY: If I talk about it, I won't be able to sing it.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Then please sing it. I wouldn't miss this.

CLOONEY: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL BE SEEING YOU")

CLOONEY: (Singing) Cathedral bells were tolling, and our hearts sang on. was it the thrill of Paris or the April dawn? Who knows if we shall meet again? But when the morning chimes ring sweet again I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces all day through: in that small cafe; the park across the way; the children's carousel; the chestnut trees; the wishing well.

(Singing) I'll be seeing you in every lovely summer's day, in everything that's warm and gay. I'll always think of you that way. I'll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new, I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.

(Singing) I'll be seeing you in every lovely summer's day, in everything that's warm and gay. I'll always think of you that way. I'll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new, I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.

(APPLAUSE)

GROSS: That was beautiful.

CLOONEY: Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you, thank you.

GROSS: That was beautiful. Let's pick up where we left off. You were with the Tony Pastor Band, with your sister. But your sister at some point decided to leave show business.

CLOONEY: Well actually not show business. She went back to Cincinnati, but she had a television show there. She just didn't want to be on the road anymore. She was then 18, and she had never been to a prom where she could dance, you know, only the ones where we played. So she wanted to go back home and maybe go to some dances and go back to school.

And then she had a television show that was called - it was one of those - what were those called, sock hops at that time? Yeah, something like that. Anybody that's old enough, and I think I'm the oldest person in the room. I know it.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: OK, so my sister went back and did those kinds of things and played records and stuff. And so she was - you know, I think really, Terry, she did it for me because I had at that point - I'd made a couple of records with Tony's band as a single singer. And Columbia offered me a contract.

GROSS: Oh, did she think she was holding you back?

CLOONEY: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: So how did you feel about that when she left?

CLOONEY: I felt sad. I felt grateful. And I went.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Rosemary Clooney recorded in 1997 in San Francisco as part of the City Arts and Lecture Series. We'll hear more of this archival recording in the second half of our show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. On this Christmas Day, we're listening back to something very special from our archive, an on stage concert and conversation with Rosemary Clooney, recorded in 1997, five years before her death. The event was held at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, as part of the City, Arts & Lecture series.

You had your recording contract with Columbia Records...

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: ...signed in 1949. And your producer was Mitch Miller.

CLOONEY: Hot dog.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: Here he was...

GROSS: ...first single...

CLOONEY: ...beard and all.

GROSS: Yeah. The first single he had you do was "Come On-A My House."

CLOONEY: Well, no.

GROSS: No. OK.

CLOONEY: There quite a few others.

GROSS: Before that. OK.

CLOONEY: Yes, quite a few others.

GROSS: But it was your first, gold record.

CLOONEY: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

GROSS: Now he wanted you to record "Come On-A My House." You didn't particularly want to record.

CLOONEY: No.

GROSS: Why was he so adamant and why were you so reluctant?

CLOONEY: He was right. He knew that I could do it. He knew that I could do it and it would be, it would be all right, it would be good. But I, I think young people sometimes take themselves so damn seriously that they miss the boat, you know, that they miss the chance. I could've missed that chance if he hadn't been adamant about it.

GROSS: One of the songs that Mitch Miller produced with you was "Hey There," which...

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: ...a beautiful recording, lovely song, and I'm so glad you recorded it.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: And I'm going to request that you sing it now for us.

CLOONEY: Just easy as anything to do. I can do it.

GROSS: Do you love this song?

CLOONEY: I like it all right. I, you know, I'm not crazy about that song either.

GROSS: Oh.

CLOONEY: That's terrible.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: That's terrible.

GROSS: I like "Tenderly," that I did, you know, I like that. Oh, there was one that I recorded that I hope you missed, a song called "Canasta."

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: I missed it. How did it go?

CLOONEY: Good. Good. No, you don't...

GROSS: No, I won't find out.

CLOONEY: No. No.

GROSS: OK. But I will hear "Hey There?"

CLOONEY: You will hear "Hey There." Right now.

GROSS: Oh, OK. Thank you for singing it.

CLOONEY: A little different, but the same song. All right, Terry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY THERE")

CLOONEY: (Singing) Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes. Love never made a fool of you; you used to be too wise. Hey there, you on that high flying cloud. Though he won't throw a crumb to you, you think someday he'll come to you. You had better forget him, him with his nose in the air. He has you dancing on a string, you break it and he won't care. Won't you take this advice I hand you like a mother, or are you not seeing things too clear? Are you too much in love to hear? Is it all going in one ear and out the other? OK.

(Singing) Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes. Love never made a fool of you; you used to be too wise. Won't you take this advice I hand you like a mother, or are you not seeing things too clear? You too much in love to hear? Is it all going in one ear and out the other? Ha. Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: Thank you.

GROSS: We're listening back to a 1997 concert and interview with Rosemary Clooney. There's more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EMBRACEABLE YOU")

GROSS: For our Christmas edition of FRESH AIR, we've gone into our archive to bring you this 1997 Rosemary Clooney concert and interview, recorded at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, as part of the City, Arts & Lecture series.

Now while you were having I think a pretty difficult pregnancy, you recorded a wonderful record called "Blue Rose."

CLOONEY: Ah.

GROSS: And it's used to with the Duke Ellington Orchestra singing songs by Ellington and by Billy Strayhorn.

CLOONEY: Yes. And Billy Strayhorn was the reason we could do it.

GROSS: Billy Strayhorn, in case anyone doesn't know who he was, was a composer who worked with Ellington; was Ellington's arranger and protege...

CLOONEY: Yes.

GROSS: ...and just a brilliant composer. So my understanding of this record is that you had to basically send in your vocals because you were too sick to travel with this pregnancy...

CLOONEY: Well, no, the doctors didn't want me to travel.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. So...

CLOONEY: And the band was working on the East Coast and I was at home.

GROSS: So Billy Strayhorn worked with you...

CLOONEY: Yes, to begin with...

GROSS: What...

CLOONEY: The very beginning, we got the keys. But he, he was wonderful. He would wake me up in the morning, knock on my bedroom door and wake me up, and then come in and say, well, now what song do you think we ought to - and we'd talk. But he'd sit on the edge of the bed, you know, and that's how we would, we planned the album. Then he would - I'd get myself together little bit, and go downstairs to the piano and then he would get the keys, and then he'd play other renditions for me and say well, I think you'd be able to do this. Just take this and just learn it and do it the way you would like to. He was responsible - it would not have been possible if it weren't for Billy.

GROSS: Did he give you any insights into music that were interesting for you? Or about your singing?

CLOONEY: No.

GROSS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: No. We didn't. No. No. I mean we just didn't talk about it.

GROSS: Right.

CLOONEY: What he would say to me as a director, he would be in the booth - this is after he went back East and recorded and arranged all the arrangements with Duke and then came back with the tapes under his arm, and then we'd go into the studio for as long as I can make it, you know. He would make kind of faces at me through the glass and he would say, you know, or direct me in a way that I could understand because by that time we were close friends.

GROSS: Would you do in Ellington song for us now?

CLOONEY: Sure. I'll miss Billy, but I'll do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOPHISTICATED LADY")

CLOONEY: (Singing) They say into your early life romance came, and in that heart of yours burned a flame. A flame that flickered one day then died away. Then, with disillusion deep in your eyes, you learned that fools in love soon grow wise. The years have changed you, somehow, I see you now. Smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow, nonchalant. Diamonds shining, dancing, dining with some man in a restaurant. Is that all you really want? No, sophisticated lady, I know, you miss the love you lost long ago. And when nobody is nigh you cry.

That's for Billy.

(APPLAUSE)

GROSS: That was beautiful. We were talking about being pregnant as a performer.

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: Five kids, five years. It must've been very challenging to be the mother of five and a performer at a time when not a lot of women were working. And there was also a kind of happy homemaker image to uphold in America.

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: What were some of the challenges for you of doing both?

CLOONEY: Well, the challenges didn't really rear their ugly heads until about the time when they started school, when there would be separations and that was very difficult for me. I traveled a lot of times and I didn't make any bones about it. I traveled with two nannies and if I could get anymore I would get three, you know, because five kids, you know, under five are a handful. So, you know, I just would like for them to let me sleep until 10 if I had worked until two, please God. And they would let me, you know, they would understand. They would usually send the littlest one in, though because they knew that he could get by with almost anything. Yeah. Yeah. And he could, too.

GROSS: There was a period of your life when you became addicted to prescription pills.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: Looking back, how do you think it happened? How do you think it got to that point?

CLOONEY: Well, they make you feel very good.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: That's the truth.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: I cannot tell you, I miss it to this day.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: I could mention the words and the names of all of them, but it was before the Valium so I can't say anything about Valium. But I had some that were great.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: And I knew how to do it, see. I would go to a town and say, called up house physician and say, I've forgotten my medication. Do you think you could send over - never asked for any more than two and they'll send you 100. No. At least - that only happened to me about four times. But boy, I was really happy when it was, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: ...that's a score. Anyway. It just really kind of eased my mind. I didn't, you know, I could sleep just fine, you know, that was good, and it became a habit very quickly. Very quickly. Then it was hard getting off because then it took a little more to do what made me feel good to begin with. So I found myself in a strange place with things going on like television talking to me, strange kinds of paranoia. It went on for while. Then came the day that somebody realized that I was out of control.

GROSS: Who was the somebody?

CLOONEY: Probably my cousin, who was a doctor and saw me, his name was Sherm Holvey. And he was a wonderful doctor, except that he was not a psychiatrist, but he knew I needed one. And so he introduced me to a doctor that put me in the hospital. And the strange thing is that when I was in the hospital - I can't tell you the name - but there was a very famous comedian that was in the same hospital, so I think, well, this isn't a hospital, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: What the heck? What's he walking up and down the halls for, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: So I had, I was in a room with three other people. And it's funny, because as soon as the medication, I got off the medication for a few days, it's funny how you start coming down, it's fast.

GROSS: You were in, what, the psychiatric wing of a hospital.

CLOONEY: Oh, I was in a locked ward. Yeah.

GROSS: So did you look at other people in this ward and say, what am I doing with them?

CLOONEY: Oh, no. I liked a lot of them.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: No. We understood each other, we really did. We really understood each other. We would discuss pills. There was a girl in OT...

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: Occupational therapy, in case anybody out there wasn't ever in it...

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: ...so, OK, and she was making a painting with her back with the painting toward the room. So, I mean the painting was - the back of the painting was so toward it. She was working so hard. She worked for about two weeks and finally she turned it around and it was a big Tuinal, which was like Seconal. But Tuinals was kind of pretty because it had blue on top and red.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: We loved it. We just loved it. And then, and then at night, you know, we'd get to watch the television for awhile. We tried to find a movie where somebody is crazy and it. Said would you look at this performance, please? Would you have done anything like that?

GROSS: But did you tune on one day and there you were in a movie, they were showing maybe "White Christmas" or "Here Come the Girls?"

CLOONEY: Oh God, no.

GROSS: No?

CLOONEY: Oh, no. No. No. No.

GROSS: No.

CLOONEY: No. No.

GROSS: One of the people who really helped you when you were ready to make a comeback was Bing Crosby...

CLOONEY: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: ..who you worked with first in "White Christmas."

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: Co-starred opposite him.

CLOONEY: Yes. He was wonderful. He was on safari in Africa when I was in the hospital and somebody had gotten in touch with him. And so I get this letter from him, three-page letter, that didn't make much sense to me until I was in there for about a week and then it started to. Bob Hope sent me a bouquet of flowers, which we weren't allowed to have. I could look at them but they had to be sent out. I don't know how I was going to kill myself with a tulip.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: But we weren't allowed to have it. Anyway, it was this big bouquet of flowers and Bob said: Hope it's a boy.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: That's really funny.

CLOONEY: That's funny, isn't it?

GROSS: Yeah.

CLOONEY: And I said to him later, I said how did you think? He said, well, my god. It's the only reason you'd been going to the hospital for the last five years. I didn't know why you were in there.

GROSS: Did that seem funny at the time?

CLOONEY: That's when I laughed for the first time.

GROSS: Really?

CLOONEY: Yeah. That's when I thought something was really funny.

GROSS: There's two things that are very special about the next song that you're going to sing and one is that you sang it with Bing Crosby.

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: Who is special to you. And the other is that the lyric was written especially for you.

CLOONEY: Part of it.

GROSS: Part of it.

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: By Ira Gershwin.

CLOONEY: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: And the song is "I Can't Get Started."

CLOONEY: Right.

GROSS: We'll talk about Ira Gershwin and your relationship with him a little bit later.

CLOONEY: OK.

GROSS: But tell us about this lyric that he wrote for you and why he wrote it.

CLOONEY: This came from an album called "Fancy Meeting You Here." I'm going to use a name in here because the (audio skips) Elvis Presley bows I just nod. You know, Bing sang that. It's just - you'll see the different words that Ira wrote. Ah, he was something. Yeah. OK. Just play a nice long introduction, if you don't mind. OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "I CAN'T GET STARTED")

CLOONEY: (Singing) I've flown around the world in a plane. I've settled revolutions in Spain. Oh, yeah. The North Pole I have charted. But I can't get started with you. When I sell kisses at a bazaar, the guys line up from near and from far. Their methods I have charted but I can't get started with you. Oh, tell me why am I no kick to you. I could always stick to you. Fly through thin and thick to you.

(Singing) Tell me why I'm taboo. The market trembles when you sell shorts. In England I'm presented at courts. And still I'm so downhearted 'cause I can't get started with you. When first we met, how you elated me. My pet, you devastated me. And yet now you've deflated me till you're my Waterloo.

(Singing) Good grief. I'm not exactly a clod. When Georgie Clooney bows I just nod. I'm asked to every state ball, still I'm behind the eight ball. Dad's a Wall Street Banker, still I'm just a tanker. You're everything a gent is. Still, I'm non compos mentis with you. No. I just can't get started with you.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: Thank you. Thank you. You're very nice. Thank you.

GROSS: We'll hear more of this 1997 concert and interview with Rosemary Clooney after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: On this Christmas edition of FRESH AIR we're listening back to a 1997 performance and interview with Rosemary Clooney, recorded at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco as part of the City Arts and Lecture series.

The song I think you're going to sing is "God, Bless the Child."

CLOONEY: Yeah.

GROSS: Does this song have personal significance for you?

CLOONEY: Yes. Because my - the last time that I saw Billie Holliday, shortly before she died, I was pregnant with my second child. And she said I think you're going to have a girl. And I said do you? She said yep. And if you do, then I'll be your godmother because it takes a bad woman to be a good godmother.

(LAUGHTER)

CLOONEY: And so she's Maria's godmother. Yes, it's "God Bless the Child." And it's for Maria.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD BLESS THE CHILD")

CLOONEY: (Singing) Them that's got shall get. Them that's not shall lose. So the bible said and it still is news. Mama may have and papa may have but god bless the child that's got his own. That's got his own. Yes, the strong gets more while the weak ones fade. Empty pockets don't ever make the grade.

(Singing) Mama may have and papa may have but god bless the child that's got his own. That's got his own. Money, you've got lots of friends hanging around your door. When you're gone and spending ends, then they don't come back no more. No more.

(Singing) Rich relations give crusts of bread and such. You can help yourself but don't take too much. Mama may have and papa may have but god bless the child that's got his own. That's got his own. God bless the child that's got his own.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: Thank you.

GROSS: It's wonderful.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: Thank you.

GROSS: That was beautiful.

CLOONEY: Very much. Thank you.

GROSS: Rosemary Clooney, recorded in 1997, five years before her death. This event was held at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco as part of the City Arts and Lecture series. Clooney's music director, John Oddo, was at the piano with Charlie McCarthy saxophone, Larry Souza trumpet, Seward McCain bass, and Colin Bailey drums. The evening was produced by City Art's executive director Sidney Goldstein with then-associate director Kathryn Barcos.

The stage manager was John Bott. The recording engineer was Joe Hunter. Special thanks to Allen Sviridoff. Our broadcast was produced by FRESH AIR's executive Danny Miller. I'm Terry Gross. All of us at FRESH AIR wish you a Merry Christmas. We'll close with another song from the Rosemary Clooney concert.

CLOONEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY")

CLOONEY: (Singing) The more I read the papers the less I comprehend the world and all its capers and how it all will end. Nothing seems to be lasting but that isn't our affair. We've got something permanent, I mean in the way we care. It's very clear how our love is here to stay. Not for a year but ever and a day. The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know may just be passing fancies and in time may go.

(Singing) But, oh, my dear, our love is here to stay. Together we're going a long, long way. In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble. They're only made of clay. But our love is here to stay.

You have been a perfectly wonderful audience. I thank you for your kind attention, your obvious affection, and I hope we meet again very, very soon. I thank each of these gentlemen on the stage. They're the best in the world and I love 'em all.

(APPLAUSE)

CLOONEY: Yes, indeed. (Singing) In time, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay. But our love is here to stay. Our love is here to stay. Take very good care of yourselves.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.