Born Anita Belle Colton, October 18, 1919 in Kansas City, MO
Died of cardiac arrest, November 23, 2006, Los Angeles, California
Don Carter (1937-19?) (divorce)
Carl Hoff (1942-19?) (divorce)
orn Anita Belle Colton in Kansas City, MO on October 18, 1919, O’Day got her start as a teen. She eventually changed her name to O’Day and in the late 1930s began singing in a jazz club called the Off-Beat, a popular hangout for musicians like band leader and drummer Gene Krupa. In 1941, she joined Krupa’s band and a few weeks later Krupa hired trumpeter Roy Eldridge. O’Day and Eldridge had great chemistry on-stage and their duet “Let Me Off Uptown” became a million-dollar-seller, boosting the popularity of the Krupa band. Also that year, “Down Beat” magazine named O’Day “New Star of the Year” and, in 1942, she was selected as one of the top five big band singers.
After her stint with Krupa, O’Day joined Woody Herman’s band. She left the band after a year and returned to Krupa. Singer Jackie Cain remembers the first time she saw O’Day with the Krupa band. “I was really impressed,” she recalls. She (O’Day) sang with a jazz feel and that was kind of fresh and new at the time.” Later, O’Day joined Stan Kenton’s band with whom she cut an album that featured the hit tune “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine.”
In the late ’40s, O’Day struck out on her own. She teamed up with drummer John Poole; they played together for the next 32 years. Her album “Anita,” which she recorded on producer Norman Granz’s new Verve label, elevated her career to new heights. She began performing in festivals and concerts with such illustrious musicians as Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, George Shearing and Thelonious Monk. O’Day also appeared in the documentary filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 called “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” making her an international star.
Throughout the ’60s she continued to tour and record while addicted to heroin, and in 1967 she nearly died from an overdose. She eventually beat her addiction and returned to work. In 1981, she published her autobiography “High Times, Hard Times” which, among other things, talked candidly about her drug addiction.
A feature-length documentary, Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2007.
In November 2006, Robbie Cavolina (her last manager) entered her into a West Hollywood convalescent hospital, while she recovered from pneumonia. Two days before her death, she had demanded to be released from the hospital. On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, at age 87, O’Day died in her sleep. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest.