Versatile Musical Performer Barbara Cook Dies At 89

Aug 11, 2017

Barbara Cook died this week at the age of 89. An award-winning actress and singer, she was a much-loved performer in top American musicals, and later launched a legendary career as a concert and cabaret singer.

Cook was known as one of the premier interpreters of Sondheim’s songs and for her rich soprano voice, and incredible vocal range.

Cook made her Broadway debut in the 1950s.

She was the lead in “Plain and Fancy,” and won a Tony for her performance as Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man.” She also starred in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.”

The Atlanta-born actress reinvented herself in the ’70s as a concert and cabaret singer.

She spoke to WNPR’s Faith Middleton in 2008 before a performance in Connecticut. Cook was asked if time had changed her life’s passions or the themes she sang about.

“As you get older, the voice diminishes in some ways,” said Cook. “I don’t sing as high as I did. I haven’t for a long time. And a kind of automatic thing happens. If you’re performing, you’re determined to get through, to get whatever message you have – to get it through. And so, you find another way. And what’s happened for me is that I have more and more courage to go deeper and deeper with the emotional content of a song say, or with a rhythmic pattern. I just… I have more courage than I used to.”

Listen to Cook discuss performing in the White House during different administrations:

Listen to the full interview here:


Cook continued to perform in front of sold-out crowds at Café Carlyle in New York, Lincoln Center, and the Met into her 80s.