Barbara Cook, whose shimmering soprano made her one of Broadway's leading ingenues and later a major cabaret and concert interpreter of popular American song, has died, the AP reports. She was 89. Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure at her home in Manhattan, surrounded by family and friends, according to her publicist. Her last meal was vanilla ice cream, a nod to one of her most famous roles in She Loves Me. On Broadway, Cook was best known for three roles: her portrayal of the saucy Cunegonde in Leonard Bernstein's Candide (1956); librarian Marian, opposite Robert Preston in The Music Man (1957); and Amalia Balash, the letter-writing heroine of She Loves Me (1963). Yet when Cook's ingenue days were over, she found a second, longer career in clubs and concert halls, working for more than 30 years with Wally Harper, a pianist and music arranger.
Born in Atlanta in 1927, Cook hated vocal exercises and never had a vocal coach. "I don't remember when I didn't sing. I just always sang," she said in 2011. "I think I breathed and I sang." Cook made her Broadway debut in 1951's Flahooley, a short-lived musical fantasy that became a cult classic, then turned to solo shows after her Broadway career withered in the late 1960s as she battled alcoholism and weight gain. She gave up drinking in the 1970s and, with the help of Harper, reinvented herself as a solo artist, working in small NYC clubs and finally Carnegie Hall. When asked what her advice usually was to aspiring singers, she once told the AP it boiled down to three words: "You are enough. You are always enough. You don't ever have to pretend to be anything other than what you are." Her marriage to acting teacher David LeGrant ended in divorce. Cook is survived by son Adam LeGrant. (Read more obituary stories.)