Feb 152012

I’ve just heard on the radio that Dory Previn has died at the age of 86.

Sometime around 1981, having mined the Leonard Cohen canon and on the lookout for something a bit less frivolous, I was delighted when a friend played me Mythical Kings and Iguanas.

I’ve returned to it often ever since. I am possibly in a minority in the Hall in admitting to enjoying confessional singer-songwriters, but that album knocks most other albums of the genre that were being made at the time sideways, a quiet and extremely controlled dissection of a howl of agony which, as the last song winds down, it is quite clear has only just begun. You get the sense that if she allowed herself to let rip at any point she would never get up again. This is, in fact, Lou Reed as he was always meant to sound

I know very little about her life other than that she married Andre Previn, and when he left her for Mia Farrow she had a breakdown and made a short run of albums to exorcise her distress, all of which are worth a listen, although Mythical Kings is the best one to start with for the uninitiated. A glimpse at Wikipedia suggests that the last 3 decades had been happier times for her, and even collaborated with Andre Previn again in 1997. Her last live appearance was in 1988; I wish I had been there.


  13 Responses to “She had flown to star-spun heights on bent and battered wings”

  1. I’d never heard a lick of her music before; in fact, I wasn’t sure if she was a man or a woman. I knew there was a musical Previn, but I figured some days I mixed up the person’s first name – Andre, Dory…

    Based on this song, I could hear another song by this woman without complaining. Somehow it’s lodged John Lennon’s “John Sinclair” in my brain. It’s got a similar verse melody, doesn’t it?

  2. I have a couple of her albums. I’m a big fan of the song “Lady with the Braid,” which I first heard on a mix CD curated by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp.

  3. Here is a link Amy Rugby tweeted today from the Valley of the Dolls sountrack.

  4. AMY RIGBY stupid auto correct!

  5. misterioso

    HS, I am glad you posted this. I read her obit a few days ago with interest–I knew very little about her. Not being as sensitive as the Mod, I confess that I find what I have heard of her work to be basically unlistenable; but she certainly was an interesting person.

    Also, and here I am hoping to Collective Wisdom can help me: as soon as I saw she had died, I had it in my mind that I remembered her guest starring (and singing) on some 70s sitcom. My gut told me it was The Odd Couple, which had guest appearances by a lot of people of the time, including even less listenable singer-songwriter Paul Williams and “singer” Jaye P. Morgan. But I cannot find any evidence that Previn was on the Odd Couple. Am I having a hallucination or does anyone else remember Previn showing up on some 70s show as herself?

  6. pudman13

    I’m a big fan. Her first four 70s albums are among the most intellectually challenging and thought-provoking singer-songwriter albums by anyone. I’ve always thought of her as a counterpart to Randy Newman. MYTHICAL KINGS is her best album, in part because it’s the most musically appealing, but there are many great songs on all of those records. I read her autobiography–she was a complicated and troubled person, and I appreciate that she used it to create are.

    I never got how guys with lousy voices got passes if they were good songwriters, but women didn’t. She should have been much better known.

  7. She has no sitcom credits on imdb. I did find this list of guests who appeared on the show:


    Did you see this, or did you actually remember that the multi-untalented Jaye P. Morgan appeared in an episode? I may need to update your Nerd Profile.

  8. misterioso, despite my sensitive nature I will say that initial comments coming in on this person’s underappreciated work are beginning to engage my Bullshit Detector. I may have to dig further into her catalog and see how much Identification by Healing is at play here.

    By the way, on the biographical note, isn’t Andre Previn the adoptive father of Woody Allen’s wife/kind-of-stepdaughter?

  9. I remember you posting a while back about what a great record MK is. I tracked it down last year and have listened to it several times–but nothing really dazzled me. I’m now thinking that I should really give it another chance.

  10. misterioso

    Please add “has unhealthy knowledge of Odd Couple and other 70s tv shows” to my profile. Thanks. How could I forget the Jaye P. Morgan episode? “Happy and Peppy and Bursting with Love”? Give me some credit here. I remember the one with Robert Goulet, too. Not to mention Bobby Riggs. And Richard Dawson. God, they had a lot of them.

  11. misterioso

    Yeah, I will await an update on her status.

    Yes, Andre Previn was married to Mia Farrow–after he was married to Dory Previn and she was married to Sinatra. What a group therapy session they could’ve had.

  12. mockcarr

    Best sitcom ever.

  13. Happiness Stan, I wanted to pass along this message from our Facebook page, from a friend who was having trouble logging in here:

    “Thanks to the person who posted commentary and kudos re. Dory Previn, may she rest in peace. (I tried to comment on the website but couldn’t get the login to cooperate). Ms. Previn & her personal story was the haunting force behind my subtle but present dislike for Mia Farrow all these years. I admired the way Dory behind her guitar put her angst and heartbreak into action.”

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