The 'Sweet Happy Life' Of Singer Connie Evingson Evingson's upbeat compilation of 16 songs, featuring the lyrics of Norman Gimbel — who is most well-known for "The Girl from Ipanema" — is what guest host Susan Stamberg pops in her CD player when the news gets to be too much.

The 'Sweet Happy Life' Of Singer Connie Evingson

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For about a year now driving to work, when the news on MORNING EDITION or ALL THINGS CONSIDERED gets to be just too much, I popped a CD into the player and get cheerful.


CONNIE EVINGSON: (Singing) Baba dubay, dobaday, dabu da, oh dabu da. Your love is rain, my heart the flower. I need your love or I will die. My very life is in your power...

STAMBERG: The singer is Connie Evingson. The album is called "Sweet Happy Life," and this first cut is called - Connie, how do you pronounce it?

EVINGSON: "Agua de Beber," which water to drink in Portuguese.

STAMBERG: Oh, terrific. Connie Evingson joins us from Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul. The lyrics of that one and all the ones on this album are by a fellow named Norman Gimbel. Tell us something about him.

EVINGSON: Norman Gimbel has written many, many songs that you know. I always say to an audience: You may not know his name but I know you know his music. And he wrote lyrics to many other Brazilian tunes that are familiar: "Meditation," "How Insensitive" and then, of course, this song...


STAMBERG: Well, how come it is that we do not know Gimbel's name, all these lyrics to Jobim songs, so many lyrics or other things which we know well?

EVINGSON: I don't know. But that was part of what captivated me about this and eventually I tracked Norman down.

STAMBERG: He must have been thrilled to pieces when you heard you were going to do an album of all of his songs.

EVINGSON: Well, he seemed pleased. Yeah...



STAMBERG: And I was pleased that no one else had done it yet. You know, because I thought, oh, this is sort of a maiden voyage here. And it has rather more attention, and he is a shy fellow. I don't think that he has sought that much attention. That might be why he's not more well-known.


STAMBERG: Tell us about you. You live in Minneapolis but you were born in Hibbing, Minnesota. And I have to tell you that to a Manhattanite, like myself, that is so exotic.


STAMBERG: Hibbing, Minnesota, what's it like?

EVINGSON: Well, Hibbing, Minnesota is on the Iron Range of Minnesota. It's up near the Canadian border. It's very cold up there. And it actually happens to also be the hometown of Bob Dylan. And I don't know if you've seen the Martin Scorsese documentary "No Direction Home," but the first scene is - it looks like Siberia. It's all white and the wind is howling and the winters are rough there. Yes, it's...

STAMBERG: So how does a town like that...


STAMBERG: How does a town like that, so cold, produce such terrific singers? Do you just keep practicing going, ahhhh?



EVINGSON: You know, I grew up with jazz music day night. It's all my parents played. And so I was surrounded with that - Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, of course, Duke Ellington, Count Basie. Tony Bennett with the Basie Band was one of my favorite records as I was a kid. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, I listen to constantly. They sounded like they were having so much fun, I thought I have to do that.

STAMBERG: And you've been doing it all your life. And what I still value and thank you for, is using actual melodies, Connie Evingson. We can understand the words too, and it seems to me you're such an anachronism these days.

EVINGSON: Oh, thank you. That's interesting. You know, I grew up - in Minnesota, there's a choral tradition. There's a lot of choirs singing here. And, you know, when you grow up singing in a choir, I think you get some good basic instruction, and annunciation is part of that.

STAMBERG: Never get tempted to do heavy metal or rap or something really loud and totally different?


EVINGSON: Nope. I can't say that I have ever been tempted to do that. Once in a while, I kind of like to do a country-western tune. I like to do at aria. I'd like to study, you know, an aria but it takes time and there's so many other jazz tunes to learn.


STAMBERG: And I know you perform regularly in various places in Minnesota. Do you have some dream venue in the world, like La Scala or, you know?

EVINGSON: Hmm. Well, I just played actually one of my dreams that use: Jazz at Lincoln Center a couple of weeks ago. I sang with - in a program called "Swinging with the Big Bands." And the big band was Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Michael Feinstein was on it, he was the host, and he sang as well. And Wynton Marsalis played. And I thought, you know, this is pretty darn good here.



STAMBERG: Were you in that gorgeous room, what's it? Rose-something, where you could look out the window and see Central Park behind it?

EVINGSON: Actually, it was the Allen Room and it does have floor to ceiling windows, and you can look out at Columbus Circle. You see the fountain. You see Central Park South and 59th Street there. And it is an amazing view and a very inspiring place.

STAMBERG: Let's hear another song, please. This one is a great favorite of mine, it's "Bluesette," Norman Gimbel lyrics, of course, and the music by Toots Thielmans - the great jazz harmonica player. And this really has become a jazz classic.


STAMBERG: Connie Evingson, I imagine that this is one of those songs that just feels so great to sing. Is that true?

EVINGSON: It is a jazz waltz. There's just something about, you know, the lilting, slightly swinging feel that is - it's a lot of fun to sing.


STAMBERG: Connie Evingson, thank you so much for cheering up so many of my commutes and also cheering all the rest of us up this morning, great pleasure talking to you.

EVINGSON: Thank you very much.

STAMBERG: The album we've been listening to is called "Sweet Happy Life," and here is why.


STAMBERG: It's WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Rachel Martin is back next week. I'm Susan Stamberg.

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