Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Betty Hutton

  • Spotlight on . . . Betty Hutton [Capitol, 1995] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Spotlight on . . . Betty Hutton [Capitol, 1995]
Her father walked out when she was two and killed himself soon enough; her mother was a factory worker turned bootlegger turned alcoholic. She joined Vincent Lopez's band at 15, threw him over a couple of years later, and signed with Hollywood's newly formed Capitol label in 1942 at age 21. She cut all 17 of these tracks in the '40s, and although her career extended into the '60s, what with drugs, booze, bankruptcy, a failed suicide, and, eventually, God, it didn't get better. People who think slow signifies serious compliment Hutton's ballads, but then, people who think brass signifies class praise Paul Weston's horns. What endures in her music is its kid's pizzazz--sassy spunk and uptempo jive that wisecrack right past the melody sometimes. With special help from Frank Loesser's vernacular, she's the cornfed blonde next door as backslapping joker-around, and she buys no bullshit. She makes fun of factory work, motherhood, marriage; she spoofs Shakespeare, barely respects Irving Berlin, and has a ball with "Papa Don't Preach to Me." So what if she was a movie star? Paul Weston notwithstanding, she's as rock and roll as Ruth Brown or Ella Mae Morse--and she has better material. A-