The More-Cool-Than-You-Think Doris Day Dies at Age 97

One of the Very Last of the Pop Icons Whose Star Rose During the Big Band Era of the 1940s and Continued To Shine for Decades to Come

“Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be.” 

– Lyrics from what became, for better or worse, Doris Day’s signature song

A Brief One by Doug Draper, Niagara at Large

Posted May 13th, 2019

Before I even begin this one I can just imagine all or most people under the age of 40 who might visit this site saying; “Doris Day? Who the hell is Doris Day, and why would knowing who she is even matter?”

And even people who do know who she is may say; “Hey Doug, I have read the odd tribute you have posted on this site on a rock star, or on a soul or a blues or a jazz artist, but Doris Day? I thought you were a little cooler than that?”

Doris, a little later on, around the time when she was still starring in her own TV show, The Doris Day Show, in the 1970s

Back in the 1960s, when I was still going to school and living at home with the parents, I thought I was at least a little bit cooler than that too. I’d be listening to records by bands like The Rolling Stones, Cream and The Kinks, and my parents would start listening to an old Doris Day song and I would say; “Hey, mom and dad, how un-cool is that?

It wasn’t until later that I found out that Doris Day, who died this May 13th at age 97, had far more gravitas to her than what, in my teenage eyes, that too-squeaky-clean-for-her-own-good image of her portrayed.

One of those entertainers who started out as a big band singer during the late 1930s and 40s (one of her first major hits was a song called “Sentimental Journey” that went over well with young lovers during the Second World War years), and who had enough talent and stage presence to make it in the movies and that then new medium called television, Doris Day emerged as one of the super stars of her generation.

She starred in a long string of hit movies in the 1950s and 60s, like ‘April in Paris’, ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, ‘Pillow Talk’ and ‘The Touch of Mink’ with some of the most popular leading men of the time, including James Cagney, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, David Nivens, Rex Harrison and Jimmy Stewart.

She was also a life-long animal welfare advocate whose ‘Doris Day Animal Foundation continues to speak for all creatures great and small until this day.

Standing by her old friend and film co-star Rock Hudson during his final days, dying of AIDS in the 1980s

When one of her most famous co-stars and close friends Rock Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s – a disease that would quickly kill him – Doris Day famously stood close by him at a time when very little was known about a disease for which there was little or no treatment at the time, and for which many people were afraid of being anywhere near someone who was diagnosed with it.

Doris Day famously appeared with a by-then, terribly emaciated Rock Hudson, looking very little like the heartthrob he was when he starred with her in the 1959 sex comedy ‘Pillow Talk’, at a news conference to discuss his disease. The image of Day, the girl next door’, standing next to a person ravaged with AIDS helped dampen the fears people felt about being near people diagnosed with it.

It may seem hard to image now how important this episode was, but at that time, it was a testament to Doris Day’s courage as a person and to her loyalty to a friend.

And even when I was a young teenager who did not think Doris Day was all that cool, I did not realize until later that her son, Terry Melcher, was a producer at Columbia Records, recording some of my favourite music at the time, including two now legendary albums by a group called The Byrds, including ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’.

I read later that she sometimes hung out at parties with musicians like David Crosby of Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash fame and John Phillips from the Mamas and Papas, and maybe even joined them for a few puffs of weed, which back in the 60s, for at least some people, was the height of cool.

Cool or not, there’s no doubt that Doris Day was one of the last survivors of a generation of entertainment icons from middle years of the 20th century, and from a so-called American Century that we may likely never see again.

“Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be.”

Sometime during the 1970s, Doris Day did a nice job of singing a song made famous by Barbra Streisand called ‘The Way We Were’, with images of some of her leading men in films appearing on a screen behind her.

To watch that, click on the screen below –

To visit the Doris Day Animal Foundation, click on – .

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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