Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I see where Dolly Dawn, an old-time vocalist, passed away a few months ago at the age of 86.

Would this real-life Dolly Dawn be the one that Harry Belafonte refers to in the song he sings titled “Dolly Dawn”?

If it is, how did it come about? Is there a story behind his recording it?
—Donald F. Kelly, St. Petersburg, Fla.

DEAR DONALD: Dolly Dawn (1919-2002), architect of over a dozen big hits in the 1930s and '40s, died this past December.

“Dolly Dawn,” admittedly not a common name, is also the title of one of the tracks on Harry Belafonte's million-selling 1956 LP, “Calypso.” Coincidence, or not?

Whether or not there is a connection between the two is a question for Mr. Belafonte.

Harry and I have a mutual friend, Carlo Stevan, of Torino, Italy. Since Carlo knows more about Belafonte's recordings than anyone I know, I called him in February and asked about “Dolly Dawn.”

Though very familiar with the song, Carlo knew nothing about the singer of the same name. With his curiosity also piqued, he promised we would all know the answer soon, as Harry had a concert date in Paris scheduled for late March, for which he already had tickets.

After the show, Carlo met with Belafonte backstage and asked the burning question.

Harry revealed that he knew nothing about Dolly Dawn when he recorded “Dolly Dawn,” and that there is no connection, only coincidence.

Bet when you wrote that you didn't expect the answer to come directly from Belafonte — in Paris!

DEAR JERRY: The best album cover art is subjective, but there is one that has stimulated me visually for over 40 years.

It is “He Will Break Your Heart,” by Jerry Butler, issued in the early '60s and bearing the same title as Butler's hit single.

The beautiful woman's face on the front cover has always been absolutely haunting, even to this day. The face is bathed in a purple light and is for the most part in shadow.

Anyone who sees the “He Will Break Your Heart” cover will never forget it.

Honorable mention goes to Danny O'Keefe's “Redux.”. I am amazed that this talented musician was never popular, probably because hardly any stations will air his music.
—Paul Deems, St. Pete., Fla.

DEAR JERRY: After reading your column on album covers, I looked up the ones for “Cheap Thrills” and “Ricky Sings Again,” and I agree that those are probably two of the best in their class.

However, my personal favorite is the one by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It struck me that the covers are sometimes as important as the contents, perhaps more so.
—James K. Condon, M.D.

DEAR DR. CONDON: John and Yoko issued several albums, but since “Double Fantasy” is by far their most successful, I'm guessing that is the one you've chosen.

Thank you both for the comments. Now here is one more:

DEAR JERRY: I'd like to add my two cents worth on the recent column in which you requested opinions on the best album covers.

My vote is for “Count Basie Super Chief,” a 1972 double disc Columbia compilation of tracks by the Count and his sidemen from 1936 through '42.

The cover was designed by John Berg, and the art is by David Willardson.

It stands out against the wretched excesses of the psychedelic era covers, yet isn't as serious and stark as was the trend in jazz albums of the day.

Furthermore, since this album is probably the only Count Basie recording that has not yet been issued on compact disc, I get to look at it more often.
—Roger Pettit, via e-mail.

IZ ZAT SO? To revisit the immense popularity of Harry Belafonte from 1956 through '62, consider these facts:

During those years, Harry charted with 15 albums, nine of which made the Top 10, and six of which achieved Gold Record Award status. Only Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis fared better saleswise.

“Calypso” remained on the charts 99 weeks, 31 of them spent at the nation's No. 1 spot.

Last but definitely not least, his 1962 “Midnight Special” marked the recording debut of Bob Dylan, who plays harmonica on the title track.

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