This film footage of Carmen McRae singing "If You Never Fall In Love With Me" is taken from an episode of the 1960's telvision show "Jazz Casual".
Carmen Mercedes McRae was born in Harlem, New York on April 8, 1920. Considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century, it was her behind-the-beat phrasing and her ironic interpretations of song lyrics that made her most memorable. She met singer Billie Holiday when she was just 17 years old and as a teenager McRae came to the attention of Teddy Wilson and his wife, the composer Irene Kitchings Wilson. One of McRae's early songs, "Dream of Life", was, through their influence, recorded in 1939 by Wilson’s longtime collaborator Billie Holiday. McRae considered Holiday to be her primary influence.
In her late teens and early twenties, McRae played piano at a New York club called Minton's Playhouse, Harlem's most famous jazz club, sang as a chorus girl, and worked as a secretary. It was at Minton's where she met trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Kenny Clarke, had her first important job as a pianist with the Benny Carter's big band in 1944) and worked with Count Basie (1944) and made her first recording as pianist with the Mercer Ellington Band (1946–1947). But it was while working in Brooklyn that she came to the attention of Decca’s Milt Gabler. Her five-year association with Decca yielded 12 LPs.
In 1948 she moved to Chicago with comedian George Kirby. She played piano steadily for almost four years before returning to New York. Those years in Chicago, McRae told Jazz Forum, "gave me whatever it is that I have now. That's the most prominent schooling I ever had." Back in New York in the early 1950s, McRae got the record contract that launched her career. She was voted best new female vocalist of 1954 by Down Beat magazine. MacRae married twice: to drummer Kenny Clarke in 1946, and to bassist Ike Isaacs in the late 1950s; both marriages ended in divorce.
McRae sang in jazz clubs throughout the United States — and across the world — for over fifty years. She was a popular performer at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival (1961–1963, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1982), performing with Duke Ellington's orchestra at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1980, singing "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1989.
She left New York for Southern California in the late 1960s, but appeared in New York regularly, usually at the Blue Note, where she performed two engagements a year through most of the 1980s. Carmen withdrew from public performance in May 1991 after an episode of respiratory failure only hours after she completed an engagement at the Blue Note jazz club in New York.
On November 10, 1994 McRae died at her home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 74. She had fallen into a semi-coma four days earlier, a month after being hospitalized for a stroke