Although I’ve written a number of pieces about crooners, I don’t think I’ve ever covered one quite like Johnny Hartman. He would certainly qualify as a crooner of the first rank, but he just might be more remembered for his collaborations with a musical legend, saxophonist John Coltrane.
The Chicago-born Hartman first began drawing attention from music fans in the post-war years, singing for bands led by Earl Hines and Dizzy Gillespie. Within a few years he’d managed to build a solo career, and by the mid-1950s he was generating some solid-selling records, but real stardom eluded him.
His big breakout occurred in the early 1960s with his collaboration with Coltrane, a collection of familiar ballads like “My One And Only Love” and “Lush Life” that showcased both performers. Coltrane was already headed for legendary status at that time, but the success of the pairing would enable Hartman to forge a solid solo career for the two decades leading up to his death in 1983.