Annie Ross, jazz singer and actress, dies aged 89

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Ross was remembered as “a great woman with soul and swing”

Annie Ross, the celebrated jazz singer who enjoyed a long career as a stage performer and film and TV actress, has died in New York at the age of 89.

She started out as a child star, billed as “Scotland’s Shirley Temple”. She later became part of the acclaimed vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

She also acted in such films as Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and Superman III.

Her deep voice was used to replace Britt Ekland’s in 1973 horror classic The Wicker Man.

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Media captionRoss interviewed in 2012

Born in Mitcham, south London, Ross was the daughter of Scottish vaudevillians John and Mary Short, who took her to Los Angeles when she was four.

In 1938, Ross made her film debut in Our Gang Follies, in which she sang traditional song The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond. She went on to play Judy Garland’s younger sister in 1943’s Presenting Lily Mars.

Ross became one of the early practitioners of “vocalese”, a singing style in which original lyrics are set to an instrumental jazz solo.

At 22 she wrote the lyrics to the vocalese song Twisted, a track that was later covered by Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell and others.

That led Duke Ellington to ask her to stand in for Billie Holliday at the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York.

Ross went on record seven albums with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks, including 1957’s Sing a Song of Basie.

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Ross on stage in 1972

Ross’s career suffered in the 1960s due to an addiction to heroin she shared with her lover, comedian Lenny Bruce.

Returning to the UK, she opened her own London nightclub called Annie’s Room with her husband, actor Sean Lynch.

She also appeared in a 1972 production of The Threepenny Opera alongside Vanessa Redgrave and Barbara Windsor.

Ross, who became a US citizen in 2001, reunited with Hendricks for live performances in the 1980s and 90s.

She played herself in Robert Altman’s 1992 film The Player, and acted for him again the following year in Short Cuts.

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Annie Ross with fellow jazz singer Gregory Porter in 2017

Her brother, the comedian and impresario Jimmy Logan, was one of Scotland’s most beloved entertainers.

Ross died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan, having reportedly suffered from emphysema and heart disease.

Fellow singer Barb Jungr remembered her on Twitter as “a great woman with soul and swing“.

Ross was the subject of 2012 documentary No One But Me, which had its premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival.

The film’s producer Gill Parry said Ross was an “extraordinary” woman who “completely embodied the spirit of the show must go on”.

She told the BBC: “She lived for jazz, loved music and musicians, was massively talented, funny, classy, sharp, glamorous, cool.

“Annie was a cultural trailblazer, but above everything she was a moving and important singer and lyricist who inhabited her songs and came alive on stage.

“Annie lived a jazz life, and she inspired great friendship and devotion along the way.”

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