|Birth name||Billie Jane Lee Lorraine Feather|
|Born||September 10, 1948|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Singer, lyricist, songwriter|
|Labels||Concord Jazz, Sanctuary, Rhombus, Jazzed Media|
A native of Manhattan, she was born to jazz writer Leonard Feather and his wife Jane, a former big band singer. She was named Billie Jane Lee Lorraine for her godmother Billie Holiday, her mother's former roommate Peggy Lee, and for the song "Sweet Lorraine". When she was twelve, she moved with her family to Los Angeles. She graduated from Hollywood High School at sixteen, then studied theater for two years at Los Angeles City College. She moved to New York City intending to become an actor.
Feather struggled as an aspiring actress during her twenties, appearing in a few shows off-Broadway and on the road, and in the chorus of Jesus Christ, Superstar on Broadway. In long stretches between theatre work, she worked as a waitress at the Top of the Gate, a restaurant above the Manhattan jazz club The Village Gate, and later at half a dozen other New York restaurants.
Untrained as a vocalist, Feather began singing in clubs as a way to make grocery money, and spent short stints as a backup singer with Grand Funk Railroad and Petula Clark. After a decade in New York, Feather moved back to Los Angeles. In 1979, drummer Jake Hanna heard her singing at the jazz club Donte's and recommended her to Carl Jefferson of Concord Jazz, who contracted her to do an album of standards, produced by her father and released by Concord under the title Sweet Lorraine. The album made little impact, but attracted the notice of pop producer Richard Perry, who hired her to be part of the vocal trio Full Swing, which at that time included Charlotte Crossley, a former backup singer for Bette Midler, and Mel Tormé's son Steve March Tormé.
The trio made a big-band album for Perry's label Planet Records, The Good Times Are Back. Full Swing stayed together, with shifting personnel, for eight years, recording two more albums, In Full Swing and The End of the Sky. It was during this time that Feather discovered her talent for writing lyrics. The Good Times Are Back featured five songs with her frequently humorous words, including new versions of bandleader Charlie Barnet's "The Right Idea" and Horace Henderson's "Big John's Special" ("Big Bucks," later used in the film Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn). The other two albums were written predominantly with living composers, notably Eddie Arkin, who was to become Feather's principal co-writer for her future recordings.
Shortly after Full Swing disbanded in 1988, Feather began working in television as a lyricist. She received six Daytime Emmy nominations, for songs written for soap operas and cartoons. Her lyrics for children include Disney's Dinosaurs series on ABC, and the MGM films Babes In Toyland and An All Dogs Christmas. Feather and composer Mark Watters wrote the themes for MGM's TV shows All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Lionhearts; they also created the piece "Faster, Higher, Stronger" for Jessye Norman to sing in the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics; this song received a Primetime Emmy nominations. Feather and composer Larry Grossman wrote the song that Julie Andrews performed in The Princess Diaries 2. Feather also co-wrote songs for Disney's feature film The Jungle Book 2 (with Australian jazz musician Paul Grabowsky), and for Pooh's Heffalump Halloween, the PBS series Make Way for Noddy, and the Candy Land and My Little Pony films for Hasbro Toys.
In the 1990s, Feather decided to put together an album of her own, and made her first self-produced album of original music, The Body Remembers, with collaborators Tony Morales (then her husband), Eddie Arkin, Terry and Sharon Sampson, Joseph Curiale, Don Grusin, and Carlos del Rosario. The album was largely electronic, covered offbeat topics such as PMS and losing one's keys, and included several stream-of-consciousness monologues that became a recurring feature of the string of solo projects Feather began co-writing and producing four years later.
The first few of the CDs Feather released beginning in 2001, featured contemporary lyrics to formerly instrumental pieces written by Duke Ellington, Joel McNeely and Fats Waller. More recently, Feather's albums have comprised original works written with such jazz composers as Eddie Arkin, Shelly Berg, Russell Ferrante, and Dave Grusin.
Feather's 2010 release, Ages, begun when she turned 60, received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. 2012's Tales of the Unusual earned a nomination in the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) category for the tune "Out There," arranged by Shelly Berg. Attachments (2013) was also nominated (Best Jazz Vocal Album), as was Flirting with Disaster (2015, Best Jazz Vocal Album (Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for "Be My Muse," arranged by Berg).
Feather's album Math Camp (October 2018) was produced with Eddie Arkin, who co-wrote seven of the 10 songs, the other three written with Shelly Berg. The album used math and physics as a metaphor for modern romance.
Feather was married to Tony Morales, formerly a drummer for artists such as The Rippingtons, David Benoit and Rickie Lee Jones, from 1983 to 2012. They lived in Southern California, moved to the Half Moon Bay, CA in 1997, and to Orcas Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, in 2007. When they divorced, Feather and Morales both moved back to Los Angeles; Feather then relocated to central Massachusetts in 2017.
- Joanne Grauer Introducing Lorraine Feather (MPS, 1978)
- Sweet Lorraine (Concord Jazz, 1978)
- The Body Remembers (Bean Bag, 1996)
- New York City Drag (Rhombus, 2000)
- Such Sweet Thunder (Sanctuary, 2003)
- Cafe Society (Sanctuary, 2003)
- Dooji Wooji (Sanctuary, 2005)
- Language (Jazzed Media, 2008)
- Ages (Jazzed Media, 2010)
- Tales of the Unusual (Jazzed Media, 2012)
- Attachments (Jazzed Media, 2013)
- Flirting with Disaster (Jazzed Media, 2015)
- Math Camp (Relarion, 2018)
- "Lorraine Feather". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- Hamlin, Jesse (18 September 2006). "Billie Holiday's bio, 'Lady Sings the Blues,' may be full of lies, but it gets at jazz great's core". SFGate. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Official site
- Ages review (Michael G. Nastos), AllMusic
- Tales of the Unusual review (Ken Dryden), AllMusic
- Dooji Wooji review (Christopher Loudon), JazzTimes 2005
- Language feature (Susan Stamberg), NPR 2008
- Live review, Lorraine Feather/Shelly Berg (Stephen Holden), The New York Times 2008
- Flirting with Disaster review (Brenda Hillegas), Elmore magazine 2015
- Billie Holiday: Year of Lady Day by Alex Henderson, The New York City Jazz Record
- Math Camp review (Christopher Loudon), JazzTimes 2018