Susannah McCorkle. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Susannah McCorkle

Susannah McCorkle was born in Berkeley, California where she studied modern languages at the University of California. Ms. McCorkle began singing professionally inspired by hearing recordings of Billie Holiday in Paris in the late 1960s. In the late 1970s she settled in New York City, where a five-month engagement at the Cookery in Greenwich Village garnered wide public attention and elicited rave reviews from critics.

In the early 1990s, McCorkle made two albums for Concord Records, No More Blues and Sábia, which were enormously successful and brought her worldwide fame. Among other venues, Susannah McCorkle played Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls, Carnegie Hall, and was the featured soloist with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops. In March 1990 Ms. McCorkle recorded a radio show for Riverwalk Jazz called “Hollywood Jazz, Music from the Movies.”

A skilled writer, Ms. McCorkle had several short stories published and in 1991 began work on her first novel. She published fiction in Mademoiselle and Cosmopolitan Magazine, and non-fiction in the New York Times Magazine and in American Heritage, including lengthy articles on Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Irving Berlin and Mae West.

Susannah McCorkle suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2001 at age 55. One year later, in a New York magazine tribute entitled "Jazz Bird," Gwenda Blair wrote, "Onstage, singer Susannah McCorkle exuded a sultry self-confidence that won her lifelong fans. But in private, she fought depression so deep, and so well hidden, that a year after her suicide, even some in her most intimate circle wonder how they missed the cries for help."