Hildegarde: 'Incomparable' Queen of the Cabaret

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The international cabaret star Hildegarde has died at 99. She sold hundreds of thousands of recordings at the height of her career. And she paved the way for musical artists who needed but one name.


And now this remembrance.

(Soundbite of song)

HILDEGARDE: (Singing) This year's crop of kisses don't seem as sweet to me.

BRAND: Liberace once called her the most famous supper club entertainer who ever lived. He was talking about Hildegarde; yes, just plain Hildegarde. She started the trend among performers of using just one name. Hildegarde died Friday at a New York hospital. She was 99.

(Soundbite of song)

HILDEGARDE: (Singing) It doesn't seem to have a chance...

BRAND: During the height of her career as a cabaret singer in the 1930s and '40s, Hildegarde sold hundreds of thousands of her recordings, including this hit, "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup" recorded in London in 1945.

(Soundbite of "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup")

HILDEGARDE: (Singing in French)

BRAND: For nearly 70 years, Hildegarde was known as "The Incomparable Hildegarde," a title bestowed upon her by gossip columnist Walter Winchell. Even at the age of 88, she was still singing. Here she is, after being asked if age was affecting her performance.

(Soundbite of previous interview)

HILDEGARDE: Not at all. Why should it? I've still got the voice. I look pretty good for 88, pushing 90. I take care of myself. I sing well. I was well taught. I had a wonderful teacher. She said, `If you sing the way I teach you, you will sing perfectly beautifully until you're 90.' Well, two years is coming up and I'll be 90 and I'll still be singing well, I'm sure, if I want to stay in the business. Maybe I don't, maybe I will.

BRAND: Cabaret singer the Incomparable Hildegarde died last week. She was 99 years old.

(Soundbite of "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup")

HILDEGARDE: (Singing) Darling, je vous aime beaucoup. I love you so. I do. I do love you.

BRAND: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Madeleine Brand.

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