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A top-charting female vocalist of the 1940s, Dinah Shore (Frances Rose Shore), was born to Jewish immigrant shopkeepers in Winchester, Tennessee on February 29th, 1916, a leap year date. Despite childhood polio, she was a singer and performer from a young age and made her way onto radio in the late 1930s (a disc jockey named Martin Block called her “Dinah” after hearing her sing a song of that name). In 1940, Shore was signed by Eddie Cantor as a regular on his radio show, and in 1943 she landed her own show, “Call to Music,” and appeared in a movie alongside Cantor. A favorite among American soldiers during her World War II USO visits, Shore became a television hostess in 1951 and had a series of immensely popular shows and specials all the way into the 1980s, for which she won ten Emmys. Part of her shtik was to have celebrities doing something down-to-earth or unexpected, e.g., Frank Sinatra making spaghetti sauce or Spiro Agnew playing jazz piano. She was also famous for her trademark end-of-show blowing a kiss with the accompanying “mwah!” Shore’s final album, in 1979, was based on her appearance on Sesame Street. Notwithstanding her all-American, clean-cut image, Shore was a tabloid favorite, romantically linked to numerous male celebrities ranging from Sinatra to Burt Reynolds. To see her singing “Down by the Riverside” with Mahalia Jackson, look below.
“I never wanted to set the world on fire. So I never had to burn any bridges behind me.” —Dinah Shore