This post is part of a countdown series on songs that have stuck in my head and are part of my iTunes "hit parade" of most-played tracks. See all the posts here.
Bad Singing is a musical genre that covers a lot of ground, from the utterly clueless (Florence Foster Jenkins; Mrs. Miller, at least initially) to the off-pitch-perfect (Darlene Edwards, alter ego of the indubitably talented Jo Stafford). Leona Anderson leaned -- heavily -- in the latter direction. Looking and sounding like Margaret Dumont if she had dropped a few pounds (maybe after finally losing her fortune to Groucho Marx for good), Ms. Anderson did not have the ability to completely miss notes over a wide range, like Ms. Edwards did. Instead, she seemed to pick an octave and just smother it into submission.
My favored Leona Anderson song, first head on a compilation of music from Ernie Kovacs TV shows, is "Rats in My Room." which struck me because its juxtaposition of grand, opera-style singing with pretty much the most pathetic dilemma outside of being homeless. It makes me think of Grey Gardens, or the rats in the empty swimming pool at the beginning of Sunset Boulevard. But Anderson sings it as if vermin in her cupboard was the kind of annoyance that only affected the wealthy and sophisticated, like servants who steal dead rabbits from the pantry.
The way she spits out "dirty little rats" convinces me that she's not a random target. Those rats (or their overseers) have targeted her out of pique for her talent. Then again, maybe they're metaphorical rats. It was the 1950s, so could they have been ... Communists? Was Leona Anderson really Ayn Rand (seen at right) in drag?
Below, enjoy "Rats in My Room," from the album Music to Suffer By, and give thanks that you're a poor nobody whom rodents couldn't care less about.