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Obit: Peruvian-Born Singer Yma Sumac (Nov 2008)

Cool Beans 03 Nov 08 - 11:55 AM
Will Fly 03 Nov 08 - 12:01 PM
katlaughing 03 Nov 08 - 12:05 PM
Will Fly 03 Nov 08 - 12:10 PM
SINSULL 03 Nov 08 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Arkie 03 Nov 08 - 03:14 PM
Gurney 03 Nov 08 - 03:33 PM
maeve 03 Nov 08 - 04:02 PM
Genie 03 Nov 08 - 04:40 PM
Chris in Portland 03 Nov 08 - 04:43 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Nov 08 - 04:51 PM
Genie 03 Nov 08 - 05:02 PM
Cluin 03 Nov 08 - 05:22 PM
Don Firth 03 Nov 08 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,Gerry 03 Nov 08 - 06:09 PM
GUEST,Arkie 03 Nov 08 - 06:29 PM
Art Thieme 03 Nov 08 - 10:10 PM
Alice 03 Nov 08 - 10:42 PM
Alice 03 Nov 08 - 11:03 PM
Acme 03 Nov 08 - 11:55 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 04 Nov 08 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 04 Nov 08 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,DWR 04 Nov 08 - 11:05 PM
GUEST,James Byrne 05 Nov 08 - 01:34 PM
Alice 05 Nov 08 - 02:10 PM
JJ 06 Nov 08 - 08:11 AM
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Subject: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Cool Beans
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 11:55 AM

Yma Sumac died again (i.e., didn't you think she was already dead?)

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/122977.html


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:01 PM

Good grief - I remember her on British TV when I was about 12 (over 50 years ago). She had an amazing voice but really only ever did the same one or two numbers where her voice got higher and higher, reached a peak and then came back down again. I still thinker her real name was Amy Camus, but the obit details are more complicated than that.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:05 PM

Since this is musically related, it's okay to include the full obit:

Yma Sumac, Unusual Peruvian-Born Singer Who Appeared in Flahooley, Dies at 86

By Robert Simonson
03 Nov 2008
        
Yma Sumac

Yma Sumac, the improbable singing star of the 1950s who claimed to possess a five-octave vocal range and ancestors who could be traced back to the Incas, died Nov. 1 at an assisted-living home in Los Angeles after an eight-month bout with colon cancer. She was 86.

Ms. Sumac's career was suffused with self-manufactured mystery. She was born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo on Sept. 13, 1922 (other accounts say 1927), in Ichocán, Cajamarca, Peru, but a popular story that circulated during her heyday had her beginning life as Brooklynite Amy Camus. In the early years of her career, she went by Imma Sumack, Ymma Sumack and Ima Sumack. All the names were based on her mother's name which was derived from Ima Shumaq, Quechua for "how beautiful." She capitalized on the Inca lineage story by dressing in the manner of an exotic princess, and made a movie called "Secret of the Incas" with Charlton Heston.

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.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:10 PM

There was a Lancashire comedienne from the 50s and 60s called Joan Turner. She had an amazing vocal range and parodied every female singer then currently in vogue. Her piece de resistance was a wonderful parody of Yma Sumac - note for note - but with devastatingly funny face-pulling and gestures.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: SINSULL
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:22 PM

There are sound bites on her official website. Strange...very strange.
RIP


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:14 PM

Ms Sumac was a beautiful and talented performer with a uniquely alluring voice. She was an accomplished entertainer and genuine star of an era when hi fi recording may have been at its peak. One reviewer referred to her vocal pyrotechnics which adequately describes her approach to music. She also knew something about promotion. I do not know that it has ever been proven without question about her identity as Amy Camus. But Camus is Sumac spelled backwards. She certainly was unique. Fortunately, there are CDs available allowing her music to continue to survive.

I read an article some years back about a promoter who dreamed up the idea of presenting a concert with Yma Sumac and Elton Britt. The attraction was that they were performers very different types of music but they each had an incredible vocal range. As I remember, Ms Sumac was not that enthralled about appearing on stage with a country singer but agreed to do the concert if Britt performed his portion of the show first. Britt supposedly gave the performance of a lifetime and played to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. So the story goes, Ms Sumac suddenly became ill and could not go on stage for her portion of the concert. That was the way the story went. I cannot verify the truth or accuracy.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Gurney
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:33 PM

Thanks for reminding me of both Ms. Sumac and Ms. Turner, amazing singers both. I can't remember Ima's looks, but I loved Joan's cheeky grin. You couldn't join in with the songs, but you couldn't watch her without grinning yourself.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: maeve
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:02 PM

As a child, I used to sing along with my parents' Yma Sumac LPs as far as I could. The expressive and vocal range of her voice impressed me greatly. She was, via her recordings, one of my first voice teachers. I'll miss her.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Genie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:40 PM

I've heard claims of other singers (e.g., Mariah Carey) having a 5-octave range, but Yma was one of the few for whom I could easily believe that was true. An incredible, haunting voice.

Yeah, I thought she'd died some time back -- but that was because I hadn't heard much about her for decades and because I thought her career heyday started earlier than the 1950s.

Here are some YouTubes of Yma Sumac:

Yma Sumac at various ages

Yma Sumac from "Secret Of The Incas" soundtrack

Yma Sumac: Pachamama

Yma Sumac: La pampa y la puna


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Chris in Portland
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:43 PM

In the glorious, never to return, innocence of the inappropriately maligned 1950's, I attended an outdoor evening event with my parents at the mammoth old Soldier's Field in Chicago. The stars for the evening were Liberace and Yma. They did not perform together. When her time came, they dimmed the lights and guys dressed as Incas brought Yma out on a platform, flanked by more faux Incas with flaming torches, and placed here on a pyramid kind of thing on which she sang her stuff. I wasn't into much music, other than Les and Mary and the Chordettes, in those days, so I can't say much to judge her performance, other than she was louder than Liberace. The Bears now play football there; such has been the decline of midwestern civilization.
Chris


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:51 PM

Chris in Portland neglects to mention that beneath Soldier Field was a complex wherein much of our early WWII nuclear research was done. Apparently, none of the performers was irradiated, though Ms. Sumac's voice sounded as if it might have been. A five octave range truly beggars the imagination, not to mention credibility. I never heard her in person, but she was a master of staging and promotion and did have an extraordinarily different vocal quality, whatever her actual range. I some weird way, she reminds me of a musical version of Norma Desmond, waiting for her "last comeback."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Genie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 05:02 PM

As I understand it, a 5-octave range of the human voice ranges from "growls and grunts" to "whistles."   Against that explanatory background, I can believe that both Yma Sumac and Miriam Makeba have/had 5 octaves (and possibly Mariah too).   But I'd say nearly all their songs are/were done within a 3 octave range (3 1/2 tops). Still pretty impressive.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Cluin
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 05:22 PM

A little bit less sexy in the world today.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 05:31 PM

I first heard Yma Sumac in the very early 1950s on her first record. Rather a vocal phenomenon!

The obit that's been linked to gives some information about her name, which is probably pretty accurate. She hadn't been around for very long when the "Amy Camus from Brooklyn" story started going the rounds. Personally, I'm pretty sure that this was started by some twit with a "National Enquirer" turn of mind ("Paris Hilton has Space Alien Baby!") and a barely sufficient number of brain cells to spell something backwards. It's just too pat to be true, but it seems to have caught on with those who are easily amused.

Also, on the back of the jacket of her first record, it said that she had a four octave range. Now it's five octaves? Is this like the fish that got away? Every time the story gets told, the fish gets bigger?

I can't say I was a great fan of hers, but she did have a unique singing voice.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 06:09 PM

I regret to say that I first came across the name Yma Sumac when I read Thomas Meehan's piece, Yma Dream, somewhere, probably many years after it was published. If you've never read that piece, you may find it worth your while to register at the website of The New Yorker to read it (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1962/02/24/1962_02_24_035_TNY_CARDS_000270303). Here's what you can see without registering:

Thomas Meehan, Fiction, "Yma Dream," The New Yorker, February 24, 1962, p. 35

KEYWORDS
Cocktail Party; Dream; Introductions; Names; Parties; Sumac, Yma

ABSTRACT: In this dream, which the writer has had on the night of the full moon for the past 3 months, he is giving a cocktail party in honor of Yma Sumac, the Peruvian singer. Since all of his guests seem to know him rather intimately & do not know one another, Miss Sumac suggests that he introduce the guests only by their first name. The guests are: Ava Gardner, Abba Eban, Oona O'Neill, Ugo Betti, Ona Munson, Ida Lupino, the young Aga Khan, Ira Wolfert, Ilya Ehrenburg, Eva Gabor, & Uta Hagen. Complications arise when he has to make the introductions. "Yma, Uta; Yma, Ava; Yma, Oona; Yma, Ona; Yma, Ida; Yma, Ugo; Yma, Abba; Yma, Ilya; Yma, Ira; Yma, Aga; Yma, Eva." Miss Sumac becomes annoyed. The circle of guests move menacingly toward the writer. When the bell rings & it is the Polish concert pianist, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, the dream ends.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 06:29 PM

Information that I had referred to her four-octave range.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Art Thieme
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 10:10 PM

TJ in San Diego, With all due respect, me thinks you've mixed up your football stadiums.

It wasn't Soldiers Field where Enrico Fermi produced the first sustained nuclear reaction. It was in the bowels of STAGG FIELD on the campus of the University Of Chicago---57th Street and University. That was across 57th St. from Mandel Hall where the U. of C. Folk Festival happened (happens) every February as it has since 1961.

All the best,

Art


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Alice
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 10:42 PM

National Public Radio, today on Yma Sumac. She had an amazing voice.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96536505


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Alice
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 11:03 PM

From Secret of the Incas, 1954


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-6eKroZeIg


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: Acme
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 11:55 PM

Alice beat me to it. NPR played a couple of amazing samples of her voice on the news this evening. I've never actually heard of her, at least, not in a way that stuck. Her voice sounded familiar and given a chance to listen to some of her songs, I'll probably recognise some of her performances. I can't say that what I heard this evening on the radio was equally beautiful at every stage of the scale, but it was very interesting!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 03:10 PM

As a kid of 13 I was wild for anything exotic. I bought "Voice of the Xtabay" when it first came out -- a 10" Capitol. (It later got combined with her second 10" as a 12".)

Yma! She was like nothing on earth. Concurrent with learning old time banjo, hot lick guitar and songs off everything from Burl Ives records to field recordings, I was listening to this amazing lady, and she carved a hole in my head that is there still, despite all considerations of sanity and common sense.

I bought Voice of the Xtabay when it came out, a Capitol 10" -- it was later combined with its followup as a 12". Picture me learning old time banjo, guitar hot licks, and songs from everything from Burl Ives records to field recordings, and simultaneously hearing the great Yma.

Strange to hear her called a "lounge singer." Yes, after she left Moises Vivanco and his magic touch, she had bad trouble finding repertoire that suited her amazing vocal abilities, and yes, she did sing some dreadful stuff.

But her early stuff like Voice of the Xtabay,, Legend of the Sun Virgin, Legend of the Jivaro and Pueblo del Ande are still amazing. It wasn't genuine lost civilization music, but it might as well have been. All honors to Yma! She was and is unique. Don't call her a lounge singer just because she was stuck in a rut and had to sing the stuff that made her a few bucks. Call her an art singer, a nut or whatever, she made amazing sounds. At her best she was like a lightning bolt from the jungle to space.

(And a late recording of hers called "Miracles" isn't too bad either.)

I still love her stuff, pretentious as some of it is, and annoying as she could be when she wasn't very good. When she was good she was very, very good. Few honestly rate that line. And hey, who else has created an entire genre of her own?

My affection for The Sumac is obvious I guess. Heart beating redly on sleeve.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 03:13 PM

Oops, the duplicated lines in my message above ... I lost part of the message through some glitch and when I restored it, it came out like that. Heck, I meant it the second time just as much as the first. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,DWR
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 11:05 PM

Agreed, Bob. She was one of a kind. We often throw that phrase around, but in her case, it was absolutely true.

I remember hearing the Amy Camus story. Glad to know that it was all a fabrication, what we now call an urban legend. She was just a legend, PERIOD.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Yma Sumac
From: GUEST,James Byrne
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 01:34 PM

It was the amazing voice of Yma Sumac that got me hooked on the movie SECRET OF THE INCAS starring a young Charlton Heston. I have made a tribute site to this grand movie, featuring many colour photos from the film.

http://www.secretoftheincas.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Obit: Peruvian-Born Singer Yma Sumac (Nov 2008
From: Alice
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 02:10 PM

Fixing James' link... he has htpp instead of http


http://www.secretoftheincas.co.uk/


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Subject: RE: Obit: Peruvian-Born Singer Yma Sumac (Nov 2008
From: JJ
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 08:11 AM

I seem to remember first hearing Yma Sumac on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950's, but cannot track down the specifics. Does anyone else share this memory?


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