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Tue, 06.19.1917

Dave Lambert, Lyricist born

Dave Lambert

*David Lambert was born on this date in 1917. He was a white-American jazz lyricist and singer.  

David Alden Lambert was born in Boston, MA. His sole musical education came at age 10 when he played drums for a year. He picked up the drums again in the late 1930s when he worked summers playing with the Hugh McGuinness trio. Before joining the Army in 1940, he earned his living as a tree surgeon. Lambert was discharged from Army in 1943.   

Ella Fitzgerald, Lambert, and his early partner Buddy Stewart were originators of vocalese and successfully brought singing into modern jazz.  Lambert's band debuted with Johnny Long's Orchestra in the early 1940s.  In the late 1950s, he teamed with wordsmith and vocalese pioneer Jon Hendricks. Annie Ross later joined the two, and the lineup was a hit.  After Ross left the group in 1962, Lambert and Hendricks went on without her by using various replacements, but the partnership ended in 1964.

He then formed a quintet called "Lambert & Co." which included the multiple voices of Mary Vonnie, Leslie Dorsey, David Lucas, and Sarah Boatner. The group auditioned for RCA in 1964, and filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker documented the process in a 15-minute documentary entitled Audition at RCA. It was one of the last images recorded of Lambert, as two years later, he was killed.

Accounts of Lambert's death vary slightly in detail. It is established that he was on the Connecticut Turnpike and that a flat tire was involved, and that he was struck by a tractor-trailer truck in the early hours of October 3, 1966. The disabled vehicle was not fully off the roadway, and its lights were turned off.  Some accounts mention that Richard Hillman was killed in the same incident. Newspaper stories differ about whose vehicle was disabled. Jet magazine's account says it was a panel truck owned by Lambert.   Jon Hendricks' telling of the story says that Lambert was a compulsive do-gooder and that he had stopped to assist another motorist.  The newspaper follow-up stories say that the driver was not at fault and that Lambert and Hillman were in the roadway when struck.   

Dave Lambert spent a lifetime experimenting with the human voice and expanding the possibilities of its use within jazz.  He was best known as a trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross member. 

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