Died: May 2, 2000 in Englewood, New Jersey
Teri Thornton was once called by the saxophonist Cannonball Adderley "the greatest voice since Ella Fitzgerald". A Detroit native (she was born in 1934 as Shirley Enid Avery), Ms. Thornton was a self-taught musician who was performing professionally by age 22. As a child, Thornton was strongly encouraged to pursue classical music, but she incensed her mother by falling in love with jazz. By 1961 she recorded her first album, "Devil May Care", and in 1963 her rendition of "Somewhere in the Night", the theme song of the popular ABC-TV series "Naked City", became a Billboard Top 10 hit and she found herself singing it on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other variety programs (hosted by Steve Allen, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Rudy Vallee, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Martha Graham). She took part in a television program celebrating Duke Ellington's 40th anniversary in music. It featured Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald who requested that Thornton join them in singing several Ellington songs accompanied by Billy Strayhorn at the piano. Ella Fitzgerald told Down Beat magazine that Ms. Thornton was her favorite singer. After releasing two more albums, including 1963's "Open Highway" on Columbia (Tony Bennett wrote the liner notes for this album: "Teri sings with life, feeling, intensity, intelligence, and taste". "She's the first singer in years who doesn't have any gimmicks, any tricks. Instead, she's endowed with perfect pitch, a three-octave range, solid training, and years of invaluable experience. All this has made her create here a great album."), Thornton's career slowed down. She made a comeback in 1983 and won the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, one of the most prestigious in jazz, in 1998. She passed away in 2000.