Bea Wain, former lead vocalist with Larry Clinton’s Orchestra and wife of famed radio announcer Andre Baruch, has died at her home in in Beverly Hills, California. The singer died at the age of 100 of congestive heart failure, according to her daughter, Bonnie Barnes.
Wain was born in New York and began her singing career at the age of six when her mother encouraged her early work in radio programs including the “NBC Children’s Hour,” where she reportedly earned $2 per broadcast. In addition to her work on radio, Bea later performed in nightclubs and by the late 1930’s had become a major star, first as girl vocalist with Larry Clinton, and later in a successful soloist career.
Bea Wain’s big breakthrough came in 1937, when she was hired by bandleader Larry Clinton. One of her first big hits with Clinton’s orchestra was “Deep Purple”, which was recorded in December of 1938 and became a hit in early ’39, climbing to number one on the US popular music charts and remaining there for nine consecutive weeks. Her signature song, “My Reverie”, was another big hit and stayed at the top of the chart for eight weeks.
Wain was also the first artist to record the now classic song “Over the Rainbow”, which she recorded with Larry Clinton’s Orchestra in December of 1938. However, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer blocked the public release of the tune until the studio had opened “The Wizard of Oz” film in theaters and audiences heard Judy Garland perform it first as a result.
For a time, Wain ranked alongside Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey and Helen Forrest as one of the most popular female vocalists in the country. At the peak of her fame with the Clinton Orchestra, she left to become a regular on the popular radio program “Your Hit Parade,” where she appeared weekly along with another famous big band vocalist, Frank Sinatra. As a soloist, Wain was a headliner on the nightclub and theater circuit.
It was while working in radio that Bea met her husband, radio announcer and WMCA New York disc jockey Andre Baruch. The couple had two children, Bonnie and Wayne, and were married for 53 years. Andre Baruch died in 1991.
Her son produced the Three Tenors concerts featuring opera luminaries Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras. Ms. Wain attended a master class with Pavarotti during the tour. She was one of a handful of big band era singers that continued performing well into her 80’s.