Feature: Special April Birthday Salute – Who Is She?????

Do you recognize this woman of great musical importance? Probably not, but...

By: Apr. 01, 2024
Feature: Special April Birthday Salute – Who Is She?????
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As the calendar page turns, it’s time for our monthly Cabaret Birthday feature, saluting a major musical figure born in the month just beginning— and the woman we’ve chosen has an incredible history.  As is the custom, the honoree is someone whose career has left a lasting mark.  But this time we are honoring someone you might never have heard of.  That’s because much of what she did was under the radar and she sometimes used a pseudonym.  She inspired some of the greatest songs of the great American Songbook.  Her name was Mae Beenott and she died in the year 2005 at the age of 106.  She was the executive secretary for the major music publishers for over 70 years and was so helpful in getting new songs recorded, played on radio and performed in concerts and on TV that major songwriters considered her their muse and good luck charm. To honor her, they created songs with her name in the title, copyrighting them that way and giving her 10 percent of the royalties. A supporter of the arts, she donated all of that income to a fund that awarded scholarships to aspiring cabaret singers, several of whom became our most treasured stars.

Shy by nature, Mae appreciated the gesture of having songs written about her but knew instinctively that they’d be more commercial or romantic without her name, so she would thank the writers and suggest revisions.  It became a tradition that lyricists would substitute a word that rhymed with her name. This was not known to the general public until her vast collection of demo recordings of the writers singing all the submitted tunes in their original form was found in her attic after her death.  There was Cole Porter’s “Night and Mae” (changed to “Night and Day”), two Irving Berlin pieces – one that began as an instrumental ode to her called “Mae: A Simple Melody” which he rewrote eventually as “Play a Simple Melody,” and “Mae, It Isn’t So,” revised as “Say It Isn’t So.”  Who knew that “Mae There” was the original version of The Pajama  Game number “Hey There” or that the Christmas perennial “Sleigh Ride” was published as “Mae Ride”?  Even Bob Dylan was one of her fans, writing “Mae, Lady Mae!” and recording it first that way with a 100-piece orchestra, now a collector’s item.  And Frank Sinatra’s signature hit was first presented as “My Mae” before it became –you guessed it — “My Way.”  Men in the music business often fell in love with her and, over the years, she was proposed to by George Gershwin, Dean Martin, and Mick Jagger.  She turned them all down, but was married six times, always to tuba players. Mae Beenott  also wrote songs herself but wasn’t interested in credit or fame, so she got them published under the names of writers she admired in the early days of their careers to get them recognition.  So, there are things she created that the world has always thought were the writings of Leonard Bernstein, The Beatles, and the great classical composer Gustav Sidney Popalapadopalous, Jr. 

She used her life savings — and alimony from her six husbands — to create what would have been New York’s most elegant and largest cabaret nightclub, called Devil Mae Care.  But she decided the place was jinxed when, at the grand opening in 1975 that presented a revue of Stephen Sondheim songs, the star vocalist accidentally drank poison and died while singing “Being Alive.”  Mae closed the cabaret and it was turned into a pickle factory.  She later turned to singing herself and recorded 14 million-selling albums under her stage name — the one that will sound more familiar to you —  April Phool. Yes, April Phool— pronounced “April fool!!!!!”  Yes, everything above is merely a nutty April Fool’s Day joke.  Hey, didn't you notice that in the first sentence we said this story was "INCREDIBLE"--and that her other name would be pronounced in a way that questions what's presented as possibly true (Mae Beenott = Maybe not).....But, actually, we do have a lady of music born in April whom we want to salute.  Her first name isn’t Mae — but her last name is Maye.  The sensational Marilyn Maye was born on April 10 in the same year that Mickey Mouse first appeared on screen, bubble gum was invented, and the Broadway musical Rosalie opened with songs by the Gershwins, Sigmund Romberg, and P.G. Wodehouse, starring the performer Miss Maye was named after: Marilyn Miller.  And she's performing in Manhattan at 54 Below. Let’s “spell out” some facts about her:

M stands for the popular Master Classes she teaches to other singers.

A  stands for  April, the month she will be performing a bunch of nights at 54 Below. 

R stands for  RCA Victor, the record company that signed her back in the 1960s.

I  stands for Icon, which, in the cabaret world, she is.

L stands for Lifetime Achievement Award (she’s been given 8!!)

Y stands for Youthful, which she still seems to be.

N stands for New York City, where she makes her second home.

M stands for the Midwest, from whence she came.

A  stands for Albums– she’s got some great ones.

Y  stands for Years—she’s been singin’ for quite a few

E stands for Excellent, which kind of sums it all up.

….and you can see Marilyn Maye at 54 Below starting on April 9, the night before her birthday, with dates through April 20.  And that’s no April Fool's trick.

Feature: Special April Birthday Salute – Who Is She?????