By Jillian Mapes
Margaret Whiting, a longtime singer of jazz, pop and country standards perhaps best known for her duet, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Johnny Mercer, died of natural causes Monday (Jan. 10) in Englewood, N.J, her daughter confirmed to the New York Times. She was 86.
Born Margaret Eleanor Whiting on July 22, 1924 in Detroit, Whiting began her career in the 1940’s big band scene and soon became a favorite interpreter of the Great American Songbook, performing with bands led by Freddie Slack and Billy Butterfield, among others, and singing on U.S.O. tours during World War II and the Korean War.
Whiting was signed to Capitol Records as a teenager by co-founder Johnny Mercer, who wrote songs with her father, composer Richard Whiting (“On the Good Ship Lollipop,” “Hooray for Hollywood”). “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Whiting and Mercer’s 1949 duet, reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Most Played by Disc Jockeys chart.
In fact, the singer appeared on more than 40 singles that ranked on the Billboard charts from the 1940’s through 1970, with “Moonlight in Vermont,” “A Tree in the Meadow” and “Now Is the Hour” among her biggest hits. Whiting also dabbled in country music and recorded nine duets with country singer Jimmy Wakely — including “Slipping Around,” which hit No. 1 on both the pop and country singles charts in 1949.
Whiting’s last big hit was 1966’s “The Wheel of Hurt,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100. She last charted in 1970 with the AC hit “Until It’s Time For You To Go,” which peaked at No. 32.
Whiting also made frequent appearances on the TV variety show circuit and starred in a biographical CBS sitcom, “Those Whiting Girls,” with her sister Barbara during the mid-’50s. Later in life, she embarked on a cabaret and musical theater career, touring as recently as the ’90s and performing at nightclubs near her former home in Manhattan. Most recently, her original recording of “Time After Time” was used in the 2009 film, “Julie & Julia.”
Whiting leaves behind her lone survivor, daughter Deborah Whiting.