Ray Fisher/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Margaret Whiting performing onstage in New York City in 1987.
Margaret Whiting performing onstage in New York City in 1987. Ray Fisher/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Margaret Whiting, one of the most popular and distinctive voices of American popular song died Monday at the Actors' Fund Home in Englewood, N.J. She was 86 years old. Whiting introduced such standards as "That Old Black Magic" and "Moonlight in Vermont."
Whiting was born into musical royalty. Her father was composer Richard Whiting, who wrote the music for a number of pop hits including "Hooray For Hollywood" and "On The Good Ship Lollipop." Her home became the royal court for some of the biggest songwriters of the 20th century — Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. To her, Jerome Kern was "Uncle Jerry."
Whiting began singing when she was a toddler. When lyricists were working on songs with her Dad and wanted to hear how they might sound, the popular refrain was, "Get the kid."
Her father died when she was 13 and Mercer took care of her. She became one of the first artists signed to Capitol Records, founded by Mercer in 1942. She scored her first hit that year with Mercer's "That Old Black Magic." She was 17 years old.
Other hits quickly followed: "Moonlight in Vermont" with Billy Butterfield's Orchestra; "It Might As Well Be Spring" with Paul Weston; "Baby, It's Cold Outside," a duet with Mercer. She landed hits under her own name as well: "A Tree In the Meadow" and "Slippin' Around," one of a series of duets with country singer Jimmy Wakely.
Whiting continued performing in concert and at cabarets into her 80s. She was also a much-interviewed primary source on American popular song.