In November, Lincoln released a new TV spot for their Wish List event. It gives you everything you’d expect from an ad this time of year. Snow, families, and whimsy with a jazzy up-beat tune in the background. Sure, the commercial is cute and that new Lincoln Aviator looks nice. However the most interesting thing in the ad isn’t what you see, it’s the song that plays in the background. More specifically, it’s the woman behind the song: Beverly Kenney.
Not many people know about Beverly Kenney. In fact, many learned about her after watching the Lincoln ad. Her smoky, sophisticated vocal delivery on “It’s a Most Unusual Day” drove several people to look for the rest of her catalog and learn more about the woman behind the voice. Unfortunately, Kenney committed suicide 61 years ago.
Before she died, it looked like everything was going well for Beverly Kenney. She was an up-and-coming jazz singer and was getting rave reviews all around. According to The New York Post, one critic of the day compared her to icons like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. That praise came after she released her debut album in 1956.
In 1957, she released Beverly Kenney Sings for Playboys. That album contained the track from the Lincoln ad that is drawing modern attention to the all-but-forgotten jazz singer.
Over the course of her tragically short career, Kenney cut six albums and shared the stage with jazz greats in some of the most iconic clubs in Manhattan. Beverly Kenney sang at the Village Vanguard and Birdland. She shared the stage with Miles Davis, Tito Puente, Art Blakey, and Tommy Dorsey. Her career kept going up. She was destined to be a jazz legend.
And then, Beverly Kenney Vanished
One day, Beverly Kenney was just gone. She stopped singing and started working in an office in Manhattan. She moved to a one-room apartment at the University Residence Hotel in the borough’s Greenwich Village.
On April 12, 1960, the day before she committed suicide, Beverly Kenny had dinner with her father. The next day, she turned her radio up so loud that police received several noise complaints. When they entered her apartment, they found her on her bed dressed in a pink nightgown and surrounded by empty liquor bottles and an empty bottle of sleeping pills. She left no note. To this day, no one knows why she did it.
Her father, when questioned, said that his daughter seemed fine the night before. However, a short documentary about her life states that people close to Kenney said that she dealt with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. But, we’ll likely never know for sure why Kenney decided to take her own life or why she walked aware from her budding career.
Today, her song is attached to the most-viewed TV ad of the season and she’s getting more attention than she has in decades.