The Passing Era of Patti Page

By:  Jack Kenny
01/07/2013
       
The Passing Era of Patti Page

The recent passing of singing great Patti Page puts a lot of things in better perspective. For one thing, it ought to give us pause whenever we hear the familiar throwaway line, "What's in a name?"

The recent passing of singing great Patti Page (pictured) puts a lot of things in better perspective. For one thing, it ought to give us pause whenever we hear the familiar throwaway line, "What's in a name?" In fact, in the play where that line originated, names meant a great deal. Only the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, thought them mere trifles. Their own passions, at odds with the family feuds, cost them their lives. In our time, with less concern for pedigrees and family lines, names mean not so much. Few think much about the origins of names anymore. In my Catholic youth, a baptized person had to have the name of a canonized saint. Whether that requirement still holds, I'm not sure. It is common of course for a child to receive a first or middle name after an aunt, uncle or grandparent. But starting in the 1950s, it became almost common for a baby to be named after a TV character, even a soap opera character. Chances are if you meet a young woman named Samantha or Tabitha, it's because her mother was a fan of the TV series Bewitched still running in syndication.

What, you ask, does that have to do with Patti Page? Well, chances are if you had heard that Clara Ann Fowler died, you would have thought little of it. And I dare say that even with her enormous talent and stunning beauty, Clara Ann Fowler would not have sold nearly as many records if she had not changed her name to Patti Page. Nor would Engelbert Humperdink be quite so memorable if he had not changed his name from whatever it was before. Likewise Bob Dylan. And who would have believed a two-fisted, straight-shooting cowboy with the commanding on-screen presence could be Marion Morrison? But as John Wayne, he was both believable and legendary.

But Miss Page also put something else in perspective. Her career blossomed in the 1950s, when the word "lady" meant something more than it seems to today. Remarkably, her recordings flourished during the years when girls, who would not be mistaken for "ladies" in that older sense of the term, were literally throwing themselves and their lingerie and screaming at the likes of Elvis and later the Beatles, Tom Jones, the aforementioned Engelbert, etc.

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Photo of Patti Page in 1958: AP Images

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