The Greatest Matt Monro shows why Matt Monro is one of The Greatest

Courtesy: EMI

Matt Monro is one of the greatest singers in the history of both jazz and popular mainstream music.  It’s been just over two decades since the world lost this vocal giant.  But thanks to work from his daughter, Michele, and the people at EMI, Monro’s legions of fans worldwide get to experience many of his greatest songs thanks to the 2010 release of “The Greatest Matt Monro.”

“The Greatest Matt Monro” is a fitting title for this recent compilation.  There are many people out there who know of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and so many other vocal legends.  But there are just as many who don’t know about Matt Monro.  This compilation could change all of that.  It includes many of his own pieces, as well as covers of other greats such as ‘Fly Me to The Moon (In Other Words)’ and ‘Yesterday’ among others.  Most audiences know ‘Fly Me to The Moon (In Other Words)’ thanks to Frank Sinatra.  But Monro’s rendition of the hit gives it a whole different life.  It’s a much smoother take on the song.  And his take on ‘Yesterday’ is just as powerful as the original.

This compilation also has more than enough songs to make for plenty of memorable moments for couples and happy couples to be.  From ‘Let There Be Love’ to ‘When I Fall in Love’, to ‘The Nearness of You’, there is plenty of material for a romantic moment any time of the year.  And the control that Monro had over his voice shows through in every song.  He was able to capture every little nuance of every song.  That ability to voice so much emotion so beautifully makes this compilation an absolute must have for any true jazz fan.  It’s just as beautiful an introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the work of a man who is at least one of the Greatest–if not THE Greatest–vocalists of all time.

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Hitting the note with Michele Monro on The Singer’s Singer

Happy Memorial Day and happy Monday, everybody.  I hope everybody had a safe and happy weekend.  Mine was pretty relaxed.  Went through some more music that I’ll be reviewing later this week, and another season from another classic Nicktoon.  And also, I finally managed to sit down at watch We Bought a Zoo.  I’ll have a review of that movie alter this morning.  But while you wait for that, I’ve got another treat for you this morning.  As you’ll recall, I recently reviewed the new paperback edition of the bio on singer Matt Monro, “The Singer’s Singer.”  Well, I am happy this morning to share an interview with the legendary singer’s daughter, Michele, who wrote her father’s bio.  Michele shared her thoughts with me on taking on the duties of writing her father’s bio herself, life with her dad and more.  That’s in this special bonus edition of Phil’s Picks.  Read on!

RR — This bio is one of the most extensive that I’ve  read to date.  I’m
curious how long did it take just to gather all of the information for the
bio?  How long did it end up taking to actually write your father’s story?

MM — This book was really a labour of love and was written for my son Max. 
I suffered a near-fatal car crash a few years ago and it struck me 
that if anything happened to me, my son wouldn’t know anything more 
about his grandfather other than he was a great singer. It upset me 
that he wouldn’t know his origin or roots or what Matt Monro had 
contributed to the music business so as soon as I was able I started 
the process. It took three years to do the research and interview more 
than 200 people. A further year was spent actually writing the book 
and a further year with publisher’s re-writes and edits.

RR — What led you to choose Titan Books to  publish your dad’s bio?  Were
there other publishing companies to which  you had sent your manuscript?

MM — The fans had been begging for years for a book of some sort as there 
had never been one written. I sent a synopsis by email to 10 
publishing houses and I had replies from all of them within a week. In 
fact one company actually sent me a contract without talking to me 
first. The contract specified that the manuscript be delivered by a 
certain date and be no more than 80,000 words. I rang them up, thanked 
them for their interest and explained that 80,000 words was the size 
of my index! I had no interest when I first started writing the book 
of having it published so hadn’t bothered to find out any guidelines 
or pointers. It turned out that all publishers aim for books between 
80,000 – 10,000 words so to keep costs down. That was one of the main 
reasons for going to Titan. They really loved Matt Monro’s music and 
were passionate about doing the project correctly rather than worry 
about every penny. My conditions were simple.

The title had to stay intact. My father was the singer’s singer and 
there could be no other title for the book as far as I was concerned.
Secondly it had to come out in time for dad’s 25th anniversary (7 
February 2010)
Lastly the manuscript couldn’t be butchered or hacked to death.

Titan were happy to meet my terms and have been true to their word the 
whole way through. It was definitely the right choice.

RR — Your father’s work has been released many times  over the years.  Now,
with the release of his bio both in hardback and paperback, are you seeing
any type of resurgance in popularity of his  music?  If so, are you seeing
it in a particular audience or is it more spread out?

MM — My father’s popularity has been amazingly steadfast over the years 
since he passed. The website I created – www.mattmonro.com- gains 
about 5,000 hits a month and it has been excellent means of letting 
the fans know what is imminent. It has also allowed them a voice as to 
what they would like to see released. I have been doing radio 
interviews over the years and have programmes running on hospital 
radio so this has been brilliant at promoting whatever needed 
highlighting. The book of course has made the public even more curious 
as to who the man was behind the music and it has allowed Matt Monro 
to gain a newer and younger fan base than before. The book has also 
garnered interest from television programmes and that gets my message 
across to even more people than before. I am passionate about keeping 
my father’s legacy going as long as I can.

RR — In gathering the information for the  book, it all had to have brought
back a flood of memories.  Were there any moments included in the book that
were especially funny or emotional for you, in writing your father’s
story?

MM — I was rather worried about writing the ending of the book thinking 
that all the way through the process I would have it at the back of my 
head that the end was nigh so to speak so I decided to write about his 
passing first, thinking that would get me over the hardest moment but 
it didn’t work out that way. Like any child there are a thousand 
moments that you will always remember, some sweet, some bitter and 
some that you don’t want to remember. The foreward was very hard to 
write, those were the last few days of his life and as anyone who has 
lost a loved one will tell you, it is impossible to put that grief 
into words for there are no sentences that will adequately express the 
pain you go through.

There are a multitude of moments that made me smile or made me laugh 
out loud as certain memories flooded back but overall the journey was 
an emotional one. I didn’t write a fairy tale and there could be no 
happy ever after, you know the ending before you start and that makes 
it hard. I also lost my mother shortly after the book was published. 
It meant so much to her that a story was finally in print and would sit 
in the British Library forever, she felt he deserved that, but in the 
five years it took it never occurred to me that my mum wouldn’t be 
here to share in the accolades that have followed. That was a bitter 
pill to swallow.

RR — So many of the bios that I’ve read over the years have been written by
either friends of the subjects or someone that had no connection to said
individuals.  So what was it that made you  personally want to write your
father’s story, rather than have someone else do it?

MM — Several authors had approached my mum and I since my father passed 
away but it never felt right. They were some that were only really 
interested in dad’s alcoholism and the salacious moments that they 
thought they could write about. Yes my father was an alcoholic but it 
was a segment of his life, it didn’t define him as a person. There is 
a huge difference between a drunk and an alcoholic and I didn’t want 
them getting the two confused. About eight years ago, I was approached 
again by an individual who wanted to write the book. I talked it over 
with Steve Woof, the head of EMI, who I work closely with in bringing 
out the albums and he told me “the only one who should consider 
writing a book is you”. It made me stop and think but before I had 
come to any conclusion I had the car crash. That crisis made my 
decision easy.

RR — Reading through your dad’s bio, he worked with a  who’s who of jazz and
pop of the time.  Were there any that really stood out as favorites with
whom he liked to work?

MM — He adored working with his mentor Winnie Atwell. She had a certain 
funk going on that he loved and of course Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis 
rank highly on his list. He loved them as people and to him that was 
important because they gave their music heart and soul. He would have 
given his right arm to work with Sinatra but something always 
conspired to get in the way. He actually had the opportunity of 
signing with Reprise and he would have jumped at the chance had it not 
been for his advisors. They read more into it that just an innocent 
offer – had my father signed with the company they could in fact have 
prevented him from recording at all. Some thought they wanted this so 
Sinatra had no competition – but like so many rumours – they were 
without substance.

RR — Is there any one song that your father sang that you would say is your
favorite to this day?

MM — There are so many that my dad sing that I love but it really depends 
on my mood. Sometimes when I’m down I want songs that reflect that 
feeling but at other times I want to feel elated by the performance. I 
particularly love the album ‘The Rare Monro’ purely because it is 
songs that had never been released before and there are some stellar 
moments in those 50 tracks. It actually took me five years to convince 
the record company that it would sell even if ‘Born Free’ and ‘From 
Russia With Love’ weren’t on it. Thankfully I was right and that has 
spurned the follow-up “Matt Uncovered – The Rarer Monro’ which is due 
out at the beginning of July. The one song that holds a special place 
in my heart is ‘Michelle’. Dad had arranged for me to go to the 
studios with him. It was my first time and I was hugely excited. I had 
no idea what he was recording but at the given time George Martin 
tapped his baton to gain silence from the orchestra, my dad held my 
hand and started singing to me. It was actually that rendition that 
was cut and pressed. Moments like that stay with you throughout your 
life.

RR — This bio is a great recollection of your dad’s life.  For those who
have either never heard your dad’s music or don’t know about your dad, what
would you want audiences to know more than anything about your dad?

MM — The one word used more than any other to describe Matt Monro’s show 
business image is professionalism. He gave his audience his best, he 
gave his musicians respect, he possessed unmistakeable tone, flawless 
diction, was subtly sparing in the use of grace notes and sang in the 
accent of his speaking voice. He made a huge impact on the business 
when talent and style still had a part to play. That he was surely one 
of Britain’s greatest exports is not in question. His record career 
alone must be a significant milestone in the annuls of the music 
business. But go beyond the tabloid image and you find a staunch and 
supportive friend, a man who cared deeply about other people, a humble 
man with no ego who didn’t believe his own hype. But this is a man of 
so many different parts, a meditative soul who was overwhelmed by his 
own press and seemed genuinely surprised that people would want to 
listen to him. He was the most wonderful husband and father who 
cherished his family deeply. That he was sparing of the time he could 
give them was unfortunate, but he was not sparing of the love he gave. 
He was caught in the headlights of an industry that exuded magic, at 
times torn between the two, but he made the right choices – his family 
wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

To really understand Matt Monro all you have to do is one simple thing 
– listen – his voice is the clue to his humanity. Through his music 
Matt lives on.
He is irreplaceable.

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New bio tells the definitive story of singer Matt Monro

Up and coming singers today have so many avenues to have their voices heard.  They’ve got American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice and so many other countless tv singing competitions.  While some of the people on these shows go on to superstardom, just as many end up fading out and becoming forgotten.  It proves that fame is a fickle mistress.  And while fame has become so fleeting for pop singers today, the names of yesteryear’s pop stars are still with us today.  That is because they made their names the hard way.  They worked to earn their fame.  One of the greatest of those names of yesteryear is the one and only Matt Monro. 

Matt Monro’s daughter, Michele, released the most in depth bio on her father to date in 2010 with The Singer’s Singer:  The Life and Music of Matt Monro. And recently, the bio was re-released in paperback.  While some paperback re-releases of books are known for being abridged, this is one re-release that doesn’t lose any of the story written by his daughter.  The paperback re-issue clocks in at a full 786 pages, not counting acknowledgements and other additional material.  Monro and the publishers at Titan Books are to be commended for that.  Throughout  those 786 pages, Michele Monro tells readers of both the highs and lows of her father’s life.  Readers learn that Monro was destined to become a star from early on.  No matter how many careers he went through, Monro’s heart was always with music.  Even if it meant the potential of causing trouble for himself during his military career, Monro fed his love of music and of performing.  What’s really funny about this story is that somehow he actually got away with almost going AWOL a number of times thanks to his higher ups.

Of course, his early military career was just one of the many interesting moments in what would be Monro’s formative years as a singer.  When he was finally given his first record deal with the now legendary Decca Records, the label actually wanted him to change his name as Terry Parsons wasn’t exactly a very marketable name in their eyes.  His daughter writes that the label took Parsons’ new name from two other individuals.  His daughter writes that the name Matt came from Australian writer Matt White.  She explains that White had worked for a publication called theDaily Sketchand that he had written a large piece about the still then Parsons, who had been discovered while he was a bus driver.  His last name came from the father of the person who had discovered him, Winifred Atwell.  Her father’s name was Monro Atwell.  Thus, the name Matt Monro came to be Parsons’ name for the rest of his life. 

The real funny moment of this story comes in Monro’s distaste for journalists who constantly misspelled his newly adopted last name. His daughter writes of her father’s reaction to the misspellings, “It’s easy to remember, it’s an anagram of moron.”  Obviously he was aiming that barb at the journalists who couldn’t agree with each other (or in some cases, with themselves) on how to spell his name.  Anyone who has ever had their name misspelled and/or mispronounced will appreciate that comment. It’s the same sort of sentiment that pop stars share even today. 

Whether it was this funny moment or any other moment, Michele Monro leaves no stone unturned in her father’s bio.  From the troubles that led to the end of his first marriage to his career highlights meeting the likes of Frank Sinatra and others, this bio is a must for any true fan of classic pop music or of music history.  It’s no Summer read.  If anything, it’s a full on piece that will make readers appreciate the life of musicians not just in Monro’s time but also today.  Many of the stories included here are very similar to what audiences might see on VH1’s “Behind The Music” today.  That being noted, it may likely go down as one of the best music biographies written to date.