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AN APPRECIATION : Wherever the Four Winds Blow, Dinah Shore Will Be Missed

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A greatly talented generation of performers, their numbers now sadly diminished, rode the waves of radio to early acclaim and enduring popularity. There are those of us who first encountered the mellow and lilting voice of Dinah Shore on those 15-minute early evening broadcasts that were one of the glories of radio.

Shore, who died on Thursday at 76 after a brief illness, was from early days different from most of the other vocalists of her time. She was not simply an easily identifiable voice, which lent a sweet melancholy to “Blues in the Night,” the establishing hit of her career; she was also a personality.

From her Tennessee origins, she retained a charming hint of accent that seemed to reflect perfectly an open, sunny, amusing, relaxed and beguiling nature. She talked as well as she sang, with the same inviting warmth. She adorned and sang her way through a number of movies, none really memorable, but her finest hours belonged to television, where she could in a real sense be herself, taking an unfeigned delight in the talents of her guests.

(The disappearance of the variety show from television is one of the impoverishments of our day, and the death of Dinah Shore is not least a reminder of how expert and enjoyable her Sunday-night Chevy show was for all those years, all those years ago.)

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Her charm extended to print as well. She loved to cook and, inspired by her mother, cooked very tastily indeed. “The Dinah Shore Cook Book” (Doubleday, 1983), with her autobiographical introduction, is remarkable in its conversational intimacy. Fanny Farmer is not a lot of laughs, very schoolmarm-like in fact; Dinah Shore is a gracious hostess, swapping recipes and hints after a really good meal.

One of her hints, to keep the food from getting cold at a buffet dinner, was to command the ladies to take two plates, one for the gent on their left, or for the gents to do the same for the adjoining ladies. She employed the system one night when I was among her visitors, and what she also knew was that the system was a great ice-breaker for guests who were perhaps just getting acquainted. (Her circle of friends was wide and amazingly various.)

A car radio, in a far different day for the medium, gave me the news that Dinah Shore had left us, and I found myself remembering what it had been like, in a small and distant town, to be in the listening audience in those pre-television days, linked to the larger world by all those extraordinary voices: Jack Benny and Fred Allen, Elmer Davis and Edward R. Murrow, and, inviting us to hear the whistle blowing its own blues in the night, the wonderful, irreplaceable Dinah Shore.


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