Sunday May 19, 2001
On Sunday evening I was called by a friend who left a voice mail message full of sobs. My friend mentioned the name of a very dear friend of mine but did not elaborate. "Have you read the story about Susannah in the paper?" she said. She was referring to our close mutual friend, the jazz singer Susannah McCorkle.
I rushed to buy the Sunday Times where I find this headline and the following two introductory paragraphs:
Susannah McCorkle, Pop and Jazz Singer, Is Dead at 55
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Susannah McCorkle, the sultry voiced pop-jazz singer who brought a rare literary refinement to popular standards, was found dead outside her apartment at 41 West 86th Street early yesterday morning. She was 55.
She had apparently jumped to her death, the police said. She had left a suicide note, but the police would not reveal its contents. In her apartment, the singer had left a will, along with detailed instructions about disposition of her estate....
I felt my soul groan under the weight of this news.
I had called Susannah just a week and a half earlier to invite her to go to see Judgment at Nuremberg with me. She had said she couldnt that evening because she was having a long-planned dinner with friends. But she but hoped we could meet soon.
How many times had Susannah and I discussed the allegation that my father had jumped out the window? She had even once come with me to meet the New York DAs investigating the case. Later I had brought one of them, Steve Saracco and his wife Donna, to hear Susannah sing at the Oak Room at the Algonquin. In February Susannah and I had sat for hours in the cafeteria of the National Museum of Art while I tortured her with the details of my immense frustration at the New York DAs handling of the case of my fathers alleged suicide. As always she had done her best to reassure me.
Now, just as I was feeling the calm of having reached bedrock in the search for the historical motive of my fathers murder I receive the incredible news that Susannah herself has jumped out the window of her 16th floor apartment on 86th Street. The mystery of one window in New York had finally become settled in my mind, but now there opens another.
The feeling of something cursed in the legacy of my fathers death is inescapable. May 19, the day Susannah chose to end her life by jumping out of a window, was my sister Lisas birthday. Like Susannah, Lisa would been 55 had she not died in a plane crash twenty-three years ago on her way with her husband and child to consider an investment of their share of the money from our 1976 settlement the settlement we now know to have been based on lies with the CIA. By jumping out of a window Susannahs death brings to mind the oldest lie of all. She and I had spent countless hours discussing this ever since we met in 1997, and she had never tired of reassuring me that the long struggle to prove it wasnt true was coming to an end. I think of this as I read the obituaries of Susannah and the question raised several times about how unusual it is for a woman to choose this method.
Some things to read and listen to online:
New York Times obituary.
New York Times appreciation of Susannahs career.
Washington Post obituary.
Teri Gross, a close friend of Susannahs did a wonderful appreciation of her life and her music on NPRs Fresh Air. From the Fresh Air site press the button for Archived show; then select date: May 25, 2001.