Dory Previn had a special talent for singing about unpalatable truths.

                                                         Dory Previn (1925 – 2012)

It was poignantly appropriate that the great songstress of heart-break should have died on St Valentine’s Day. The melancholy, poetic and painfully honest Dory Previn will always be remembered for songs that cut the crap as far as personal relationships and inner suffering are concerned. Songs that were written and recorded at a time of mental stress and even breakdown but that speak to us all – well everyone who is honest enough to look into their own souls every now and then.

It might be easy these days to laugh at the big glasses and heavy hair that was part of the misinterpreted fashion-mocking decade that was the 1970s just as it is cool to disregard the words and music of a woman spilling their emotional beans in her forties just when she ought to know better. Dory Previn  
was that  heavy-haired middle-aged woman and laugh if you want to but she was truly rock ‘n roll.


She had, of course, had a life before she made a handful of painfully honest albums in the early 1970s otherwise those experience-wounded words would never have been written. She was successful too as a Hollywood songwriter who went on to collaborate with her husband-to-be, the conductor Andre Previn. 

Andre Previn
His relationship with the much younger, non-spectacled and straight-haired but now pregnant Mia Farrow and Dory’s sink into mental breakdown coincided but what came first is not for me to say. 
Mia Farrow
What is true though is Mia had the child and Dory wrote the song:

No matter how much pain was described and encapsulated in those songs from over forty years ago, luckily, from what I have read, Dory made friends with Andre again and also remarried happily and, as we now learn, lived to a fine old age where, I hope, she continued to spread her wisdom.

I particularly loved her album Mythical Kings And Iguanas (1971) with at least two stand-out songs, The Lady With The Braid where love and loneliness add up to something messy but also, more or less, comforting:

Then there is Mythical Kings And Iguanas, the title track, where the great lady reminds us all to keep our minds and our bodies very much down to earth:

Before all that pain, she could still write direct and humanly profound lyrics – nothing better than her words to Andre Previn’s music in the theme from the movie The Valley Of The Dolls (1967), memorably and, dare I say, perfectly song by Whitney Houston’s greater cousin, the wonderful Dionne Warwick:

 Theme from the Valley Of The Dolls

5 Comments

  1. Wolfie – Nice to find you! I was brought up listening to Dory Previn albums…on 8 track. She was always an inspiration. Her autobiography was a profound and intense read. What a hell of a story. Nice to see she touched someone else and inspired them as well.

  2. Ah, Colin, you bring back memories. The Theme from the Valley of the Dolls every now and then rises up in the old man's brain like an unbidden message in the magical 8-Ball (remember those?).

    Dory Previn, one of those forgotten names from the past like Bobbie Gentry and Brenda Lee.

  3. Hi Marco and Brian – pleased this struck a chord.

    @Marco I must read her autobiography sometime…thanks for finding me.

    @Brian Yes, indeed I do remember the Magic 8-Ball – for those of you who don't it was a ball with fortune telling messages floating inside and viewed randomly. Never came true for me.

  4. Wolfie – ~I sent you an email – did you get it? Maybe it went to your spam filter?

  5. @Marco – your message got spammed, sorry about that. I have just replied to you Marco.

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