A Voice Stilled Too Soon – Irene Kral

Music history is filled with stories of performers who died much too young. And it seems especially cruel when it happens to one of the many female vocalists who early in their careers took time off to raise families. But in spite of all that, when Irene Kral died in 1978 at just age 46 she left behind a rich legacy as one of the most talented singers of her era.

The Chicago native got her start as a teenager in the late 1940s, but she had a secret weapon — her older brother Roy was already a successful and respected pianist and vocalist. With his help, she was soon finding singing jobs in the area and spent several years gaining experience. During the 1950s she continued to build her name and was eventually able to land a job as a vocalist for Maynard Ferguson’s band. Before long she also landed a husband from the band — trumpeter Joe Burnett.

Over the last two decades of her life, Irene would show up in a lot of high profile musical spots, including a stint as a regular vocalist on TV’s Steve Allen Show. She also worked with some of the best musicians around, including Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne, and others. Through it all, she was also an attentive mother, and sometimes took off long periods to spend with her kids.

By the 1970s she was again working full time, and recorded a series of outstanding albums with Alan Broadbent. Unfortunately, she grew ill with breast cancer and died in 1978, but her music was rediscovered by many fans in 1995 when two of her songs were added to the soundtrack of the Clint Eastwood-Meryl Streep romance Bridges Of Madison County. You can hear one below.

Irene Kral – “It’s a Wonderful World”


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