Pamela Rose revives forgotten female songwriters' music

COURTESY Jennifer Paschal<p>Singer and music historian Pamela Rose has put together a cabaret act showcasing standards by female songwriters who aren't as well-known as they should be.</p>

COURTESY Jennifer Paschal<p>Singer and music historian Pamela Rose has put together a cabaret act showcasing standards by female songwriters who aren't as well-known as they should be.</p>

Are you a music lover? Can you identify Doris Fisher, Alberta Hunter or Kay Swift? If not, get yourself over to Pamela Rose's “Wild Women of Song” at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

It's part history lesson, part performance, but “all entertainment” according to Rose, who has been exploring the legacy of female songwriters since discovering the Fisher's catalog.

“Doris Fisher is no household name, even to singers who perform a lot of standards but the jaw-dropper for me was the phenomenal list of really popular songs when wrote like 'You Always Hurt the One You Love' and 'Put the Blame on Mame' and so many more.”

Intrigued, Rose turned to a bit of Internet research and was disappointed to find “only one little raggedy low-resolution photo that had been passed around forever, a couple of lines of obit. That was it.”

Digging deeper, Rose discovered songwriting was the Fisher family business. Father Fred composed “I'd Rather Be Blue” and “Peg O' My Heart” and his sons Danny and Marvin also took up the trade.

“How Doris had really been forgotten kinda blew my mind,” Rose says.

What followed for Rose was something between cultural archaeology and a treasure hunt. “I started asking anybody – music publishers and sheet music societies – really anybody who might know a little something about Doris Fisher.”

Enter Harold Jacobs, a sheet music aficionado whose collection, amassed with partner Roy Bishop, was featured on “Michael Feinstein's American Songbook.”

Jacobs had befriended Fisher late in her life. “At the time she was so thrilled that anyone remembered her that she gave him this big trunk filled with photographs, letters from grateful singers and even a half-finished family memoir.” When Fisher died in 2003, Jacobs contacted the family about the material and was told “no one's interested in any of that old stuff,” says Rose, who discovered the family also sold Fisher's music catalog soon after her death.

“It really kinda set my teeth on edge,” says Rose, acknowledging that in Fisher's era “women weren't supposed to blow their own horns.”

Rose heard many similar stories, including that of singer-songwriter Alberta Hunter, who switched careers to nursing in her 60s before having a music renewal in her 80s, performing and writing the song score for Robert Altman's 1978 thriller “Remember My Name.”

“She bookends the show. We start out talking about the '20s in Chicago where Hunter got her start and we close the show with 'Remember My Name' in a special arrangement I wrote,” says Rose.

IF YOU GO

Pamela Rose

Where: Jewish Community Center 3200 California St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 4

Tickets: $25 to $35

Contact: (415) 292-1200, www.jccsf.org

Alberta HunterartsDoris FisherPamela RosePop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Folks wave from the side of a Muni cable car as it heads down Powell Street after cable car service returns from a 16-month COVID absence on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s cable cars return after 16-month absence

San Francisco’s cable cars are back, and they’re free for passengers to… Continue reading

Blue California often is the target of criticism by conservative media, but now is receiving critical attention from liberal writers. Pictured: The State Capitol. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Why is California now being criticized from the left?

California being what it is – a very large state with a… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

Steven Buss, left, and Sachin Agarwal co-founded Grow SF, which plans to produce election voter guides offering a moderate agenda. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Grow SF: New tech group aims to promote moderate ideals to political newcomers

Sachin Agarwal has lived in San Francisco for 15 years. But the… Continue reading

Most Read