Known for her sultry voice and sensual persona, Julie London was an actress and a singer. She was active during the 50s, where she was also considered as a sex symbol and a pinup girl, mostly judging from the provocative poses in her LP sleeve covers. London tackled pop and jazz tunes, and was known for her hit song “Cry Me A River” (featured as a soundtrack for The Girl Can’t Help It where she performed the song). As an actress, London appeared in films such as Man of the West and Saddled In The Wind. She acted on TV (most notably “Emergency!” in the 70s). During her heyday, the Californian-born London recorded 30-odd albums (mostly for the label Liberty), the last being Yummy, Yummy, Yummy in 1969. She retired from showbiz in the late 70s. In the mid-90s, London suffered a stroke that led to her death in October 2000.
Beginnings and rise to popularity
Julie London was born Nancy Peck in Santa Rosa, California in September 26, 1926. Show business ran in the family, as both her parents were members of a vaudeville troupe. It’s no surprise that the young Nancy started her inevitable path to entertainment quite young. An alumna of the now-defunct Hollywood Professional School, London had begun appearing in films in bit parts. Before her film work, London had also started singing under the name of Gayle Peck.
When she was 20 or 21 years old, London married actor Jack Webb, who later rose to fame on the television series Dragnet. They divorced in 1954.
In terms of her singing career, Julie London released her debut album Bethlehem’s Girlfriends in 1955. Since then, London had released 30-plus other albums, the most successful on the Billboard 200 being Julie Is Her Name (1955, at #2), Lonely Girl (1956, at #16), Calendar Girl (1956, at #18), and About The Blues (1957, at #15). The beautiful singer-actress also got her fame largely in part due to her provocative “pin-up girl” poses on many of her album covers. Despite this come-hither image, she was actually shy behind the camera.
London also developed her own style of singing, her repertoire being jazz which she loved. Despite lacking in range found in other jazz singers like say, Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald, she had this certain “smokiness” in her singing. Her smoldering and sultry vocal style, coupled with a sense of restraint and tenderness, brought her distinction.
Although London made many records, her most successful one in her career was “Cry Me a River,” released in November 1955 and appeared on her most commercially successful album Julie Is Her Name. The song was written by her classmate Arthur Hamilton, originally intended for Fitzgerald to sing in the film Pete Kelly’s Blues (although the project never pushed through, Fitzgerald did record a later version of that song). The single was produced by jazz pianist/singer/composer/actor Bobby Troup, whom London would marry in 1959. “Cry Me a River” broke into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9 — her only Top Ten (or Top 20, or even Top 40) hit ever.
London performed “Cry Me A River” on the Tom Ewell/Jayne Mansfield-starred musical comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, which did bolster the single’s success.
London’s last studio LP was 1969’s Yummy, Yummy, Yummy which featured the title track, her cover of the Ohio Express bubblegum pop hit. Her other higher-charting hit was “Like to Get to Know You,” which peaked at #15 on the easy listening singles chart.
As an actress, London did a lot of work in film and television. She appeared on a little over twenty films and many appearances on TV variety and drama shows. But the most known TV show she had starred in was the NBC medical drama Emergency! in the 1970s. The show was produced by London’s ex-husband Webb, and also starred her current husband Troup.
In her later years, London suffered a massive stroke, and passed away in 2000, on October 18 — the birth date of her husband Troup who died a year earlier. She was 74 years old.
“Cry Me a River” has undergone many cover versions by a wide range of artists, from chanteuses Crystal Gale, Shirley Bassey and Linda Ronstadt to rockers Jeff Beck and Aerosmith. It has even been re-recorded in several languages. But everyone knows that a big part of Julie London’s fame is still inextricably connected with the song which she had immortalized.
London married actor/producer Jack Webb in 1947. Their relationship was influenced in part by their shared passion for jazz. Stacy and Lisa were their daughters. In 1954, London and Webb were divorced. 23 December 1982 marked Webb’s death. One day after her mother turned 70 in 1996, Stacy Webb died in a car accident.
London married jazz musician and composer Bobby Troup in 1959; the couple was together until his passing in 1999. They had Jody and Reese Troup, identical twin sons, and one daughter, Kelly Troup, who passed away in 2002. Cynthia and Ronne Troup, the children of Troup via his first marriage to Cynthia Hare, had Julie London as their stepmother.
London was renowned for leading a reclusive life and keeping her intimate affairs out of the spotlight. She had a very quiet life and was renowned for her devotion to her family and spouse despite her recognition and success as a singer and actor.
Julie London was idolized throughout her career in the entertainment business and was renowned for her elegant looks and amazing vocals. Although she passed away at the age of 74, her work is still well-liked and her effect on popular music is generally acknowledged.
Julie London performed “Cry Me a River” in the 1956 movie The Girl Can’t Help It, and subsequently, the movies Passion of Mind (2000) and V for Vendetta (2006) used her track, bringing her to wider prominence. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001 and scored number 48 on NPR’s list of the 50 Greatest Jazz Vocals.
Both of her 1960 albums Julie…At Home and Around Midnight were included in the tome 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Many contemporary musicians, including Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish, have cited her as an inspiration. One of the most significant stylists of the early 20th century, according to music critic Will Friedwald, London was also the subject of a homage by Jools Holland and Jamiroquai for their music video for “I’m in the Mood for Love” shortly after her death.
Her rendition of the Ohio Express song “Yummy Yummy Yummy” may be found on the soundtrack CD for the television show Six Feet Under. The opening episode of the 2011 television series Pan Am included a scene from London’s “Must Be Catchin’.”
List of Songs
Throughout her career, Julie London released a lot of well-known songs. Her most well-known songs include the following:
- Cry Me a River
- Fly Me to the Moon
- I’m In The Mood For Love
- I’m Glad There Is You
- Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man
- My Heart Belongs to Daddy
- The End of the World
- ’Round Midnight
- I Left My Heart In San Francisco
- Go Slow
- I’d Like You for Christmas
- Show Me the Way to Go Home
- Blue Moon
- Girl Talk
- September In the Rain
- Warm in December
- I Should Care
- Why Don’t You Do Right
- The Good Life
- No Moon At All
- Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast
- Blues In The Night
- Wives and Lovers
- You And The Night And The Music
- You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
- Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
- The Meaning Of The Blues
- I’m Coming Back to You
These tracks highlight her diverse vocal range and show off her abilities to play a variety of musical genres, including jazz, pop, blues, and folk. She became a crowd favorite because of her laid-back, personal approach and her deep, smokey voice.
Since the age of 16, Julie London has been a chain smoker and has occasionally smoked more than three packs per day. She had a stroke in 1995, and for the next five years, she struggled with her health. She received a lung cancer diagnosis in late 1999 but chose not to receive treatment because of her frail physical condition. London was brought from her house to the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center on October 17, 2000, after choking and having trouble breathing. In the early morning of October 18, she passed away in the hospital from what was subsequently confirmed to be cardiac arrest.
In the Courts of Remembrance Columbarium of Providence in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, London was cremated and laid to rest next to Troup. At 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording.
Here are some interesting trivia facts about Julie London:
- At Paramount Pictures, Julie London began her acting career as a contract actor, appearing in over 20 different movies.
- She released her debut album, “Julie Is Her Name,” in 1955. It was a big success and contributed to her becoming a well-known jazz soprano.
- She was renowned for her unusual, smokey voice as well as her laid-back, private singing manner.
- London was a gifted actor who worked on several TV series, including “Emergency!” where she played nurse Dixie McCall.