The good stuff: The Financial Times once called Ms. Cook, 84, the “greatest singer in the world” — probably because “greatest singer in the universe” would be rank hyperbole.
Career lowlight (I): From the annals of What Could Possibly Go Wrong? we bring you “Carrie: The Musical.” Staged in 1988 by the Royal Shakespeare Company — no, really — and blessed with an $8 million budget, the show was based on Stephen King’s horror novel about a picked-on, telekinetic teenage girl who showers revenge — and buckets of blood — upon her high school prom. On the show’s opening night in England, Ms. Cook was nearly decapitated by a stage prop, an incident that prompted her to resign, noting that “there isn’t a chance in hell they’ll be able to pull this off.” Smart move: “Carrie‘s” subsequent Broadway run was a legendary failure, later inspiring the title of the 1991 book “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.”
Career lowlight (II): Ms. Cook lent her voice to 1994’s “Thumbelina,” a box-office bomb of which film critic Roger Ebert quipped, “It is difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 12 finding much to enjoy in ‘Thumbelina.’ “
Relevant statistic: Twenty one — total number of previews (16) and performances (5) of “Carrie” on Broadway before it closed.
Quotable: The opening line of acerbic critic Frank Rich's “Carrie” review read, “Those who have the time and money to waste on only one Anglo-American musical wreck on Broadway this year might well choose ‘Carrie.’”
The good stuff: Received National Medal of Honor in 2010; composed a number of jazz standards; won just about every award imaginable, from Grammys to the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art; had an official day named after him in Minneapolis; was honored by “The Simpsons” with a Bleeding Gums Murphy scene; legendary 1956 album titled “The Saxophone Colossus” was proof positive of the adage that it ain’t bragging if you can back it up.
Career lowlight: You know what? We couldn’t find a single disparaging word about the 81-year-old musician.
Quotable: Perhaps Osgood Fielding III had it all wrong.
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Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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