13 July 2003
It's anchors aweigh once more
I was plotting a course this morning with the aid of Messrs. Rand and McNally, when an email came in to remind me that it was the birthday of Renee Diane Kushner, and of course I couldn't let that go by without some mention here.
She was sixteen in 1962 when she cut her first record for Atco, "Little White Lies", with Pete DeAngelis at the helm, a truncated version of her own name for the nom de disque. According to legend, it was supposed to be "Renay Diane," but somebody at Atlantic goofed, and the 45 came out credited to "Diane Renay". So Diane Renay she became.
Another happy accident took place a couple years later. Producer Bob Crewe had gotten her a recording contract with 20th Century-Fox, and together they waxed a ballad called "Unbelievable Guy". It was a flop, but deejays flipped the disk to find a goofy throwaway with spectacular levels of bounciness. "Navy Blue", the tale of a girl whose boyfriend's shore leave can't come soon enough, bounced all the way into the Top Ten, and Renay and Crewe quickly worked up a sequel, "Kiss Me Sailor", which also hit.
Diane Renay wouldn't get close to the Top 40 again, though she continued to record through the Sixties, and resumed in the Eighties after discovering that she hadn't been entirely forgotten after all; in 1987, she cut a new version of "Navy Blue", produced by David Lasley.
Pop music, like any other mass-market commodity, is dominated by the big names; one of its saving graces is that the smaller names, over the years, have made just as many great records. It's why I still remember the little blonde from South Philadelphia after all these years.