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 The Great Miss Helen Forrest

Helen ForrestHelen Forrest

Here is a great lady of song who sang with the best; Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw and more. And after having several strokes and lying in a hospital bed she still took time to speak to me. It was many weeks before she was able to speak on the phone, but finally she took her precious time to give a short interview that turned out to be her last. Unfortunately the great Helen Forrest passed away shortly after these last few words. We think the world of Miss Forrest. Not only for her talents, but for also being the warmest and most wonderful person we've ever met. Enjoy these next few minutes and please excuse the muddy sound of the audio as this interview was done without expectation and preserved as best as we can.

Biography for Helen Forrest

Helen Forrest (April 12, 1917 – July 11, 1999) was one of the most popular female jazz vocalists during America's Big Band era. She was born Helen Fogel to a Jewish family in Atlantic City, New Jersey on April 12, 1917. She first sang with her brother's band at the age of 10, and later began her career singing on CBS radio under the name Bonnie Blue.


Forrest achieved fame when bandleader Artie Shaw hired her in 1938. Shaw was looking for new talent when vocalist Billie Holidayhad to leave the band after singing with the group for a short period of time. Forrest recorded 38 singles with Shaw's band. Two of her biggest hits with Shaw were the songs "They Say" and "All the Things You Are."

In late 1939, Forrest left Shaw and joined Benny Goodman, with whom she recorded a number of celebrated songs, including the hit song, "The Man I Love." She told the PopChronicles "Benny would look right above your eyebrows, in the middle, right on top of the brow. He was a very strange man."

She recorded with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton in 1940. In 1941, Forrest was hired by Harry James. It was with the Harry James Orchestra that she recorded what are arguably her most popular numbers, including "I Had the Craziest Dream" in 1942 and "I Don't Want to Walk Without You." Forrest also dated James, until he met the woman he would later marry, Betty Grable.

Because of her involvement with most of the popular bands of the big band era, Forrest was known as "the voice of the name bands."

Forrest left Harry James in late 1943 in pursuit of a solo career. In the late 1940s, she sang on Dick Haymes' radio show. It was with Haymes that she recorded the song, "Some Sunday Morning." In 1944 she made an appearance in the Esther Williams movie Bathing Beauty with Harry James and his orchestra. After a dip in recording in the 1950s, Forrest sang with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra, led by Sam Donahue in the early 1960s. She continued to sing in supper clubs in the 1970s and 1980s. Her final album was released in 1983.

She kept singing until the early 1990s, when arthritis forced her into retirement. Over the course of her career, she recorded more than 500 songs. Forrest acted in several musical films, including Bathing Beauty and Two Girls and a Sailor, which both came out in 1944. She was a civil rights activist as well.


Forrest married and divorced three times, and had one son, Michael Forrest Feinman, who currently resides in Lancaster, California.

Helen Forrest died from congestive heart failure on July 11, 1999 in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 82. Her final resting place is in Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.


Glenn MillerHarry JamesCab CallowayJimmy DorseyLouie ArmstrongLes Brown with Doris DayFrances LangfordSammy KayeThe Ink SpotsThe ModernairesBing CrosbyTex BenekeTommy DorseyFrank SinatraBob EberlyHelen ForrestRay eberleyKitty KallenBunny BerriganGene KrupaConnie HainesAlvino ReyThe Mills BrothersThe Andrews SistersAnita O'DayKeely SmithBillie EckstineCount_BasieDickHaymesVincent LopezWoody HermanHelen O'Connell