Iola Brubeck, instrumental to husband Dave's success in jazz, dies at 90
Iola Brubeck, who helped propel her husband, pianist Dave Brubeck, to jazz stardom in the 1950s by suggesting that he perform on college campuses and who wrote lyrics for many of his compositions, died March 12 in her home in Wilton, Conn. She was 90.
She had cancer, her son Chris Brubeck said.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Dave Brubeck was the biggest star in jazz, with best-selling records, concerts around the world and an innovative way of bringing international rhythms into jazz.
None of that would have been possible, he was the first to admit, without the contributions of his wife, who was his first manager and his emotional anchor for the 70 years they were married.
In the early 1950s, when Iola Brubeck was managing her husband's career, she suggested that his quartet, featuring saxophonist Paul Desmond, present concerts on college campuses.
“I sat down and wrote to every college up and down the West Coast that I thought was within driving distance of where we lived in San Francisco and offered our services,” she said in 2008.
The idea caught on and ignited her husband's career in earnest. The landmark 1953 album “Jazz at Oberlin,” from a performance at the college in Ohio, led to a series of similar recordings and helped propel Brubeck to stardom.
In 1958, Iola Brubeck accompanied her husband on a State Department-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe, marking the first time that jazz musicians had been used as semiofficial emissaries of the United States behind the Iron Curtain.
He introduced musical elements that he learned during those travels into his music, and his career continued to blossom. His quartet's 1959 recording of “Take Five” became the top-selling jazz record of all time.
Through nearly all of it, Iola Brubeck stayed at home in Connecticut, raising their six children and acting as her husband's anchor.
“There is absolutely no way,” Chris Brubeck said on Tuesday in an interview, “Dave Brubeck would have become ‘Dave Brubeck,' if it weren't for my mom's involvement and support.”
Iola Marie Whitlock was born Aug. 14, 1923, in Corning, Calif., and grew up throughout Northern California, where her father was a forest ranger. She was valedictorian of her high school class in Shasta, Calif., before enrolling at what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
A plaque in the university's concert hall marks the spot where she and Dave Brubeck met in 1941. He proposed that night, and they married a year later.
In 1950, Iola Brubeck began to write lyrics for some of her husband's tunes, including “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “Strange Meadow Lark,” “Summer Song” and his large-scale religious and choral works.
Jazz star Louis Armstrong recorded “The Real Ambassadors,” a musical written by the husband-and-wife team, in the early 1960s. The musical is scheduled to have its New York premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center next month.
Dave Brubeck, who received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009, continued to perform with his quartet until shortly before his death on Dec. 5, 2012, one day before his 92nd birthday.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Ross brothers ordered to pay fine, remove debris from Christmas display
- Rossi: Fleury is, and will remain, Penguins’ soul
- Police seize phones of some Norwin High School students
- Injured Pitt center Rowell plays well-rounded role on campus
- Testing legs, giving backup goalie a chance are Penguins’ priorities
- Steelers film session: Watt kept under control
- 7 in custody after New Kensington drug raid
- Rostraver woman victim of home invasion
- 2 stores robbed in Alle-Kiski Valley
- Penguins notebook: Newcomers get 1st taste of rivalry with Flyers