A few hours ago, a New York morning was shadowed by a passing in Kolkata (Calcutta). It marked the end of the earth life of Pam Crain , India’ first and only jazz diva, who , in a remarkable career that began as a teenager, way back in the 1930’s (with Sonny Lobo’s band) went on to become the jazz voice of India…After finishing her gigs on earth, she now joins the Great Gig in the Sky..in the company of the finest.
Her story is one of passion, and dedication for the music she loved, as she said “its hard work , it didnt come easy” …but it took her to fame, but not always fortune…respect for her outstanding and extraordinary talent, and most of all adoration and love from thousands of Pam-struck mesmerized fans. For so many , she was the voice of jazz, often their first introduction to live jazz in an era where live jazz of her quality was a scarce and rare treasure. They went home, with a vision of Pam in her Diva gown wafting in their heads and hearts, and a musical phrase with her voice in their ears..and from then on jazz, for many, truly began. She was the voice of the legendary Blue Fox in Calcutta (now a McDonalds) , and later at the Oberoi in Bombay. Inspired first by Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughn, she then, as she tells the story..”was in Bombay, and this guy who was from the American Embassy, he and his wife, insisted I go to their house, and said you must listen to this person, because you sing like her…and they put on this record and though the head phones ..i heard this voice, I was blown away , I cannot tell you how I felt ..I was in shock..” it was the great Betty Carter..and as Mr.Louiz Banks says in our Documentary Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India..”she just wanted to sing like Betty Carter” And when she met Betty in Bombay , in the early ’80’s they bonded like a mother and daughter.. and Pam “went to Heaven, that time, when we met and hung out”. Unfortunately there are just a few recordings of Pam, but her voice is carried on in many hearts.. Here is a find from the very early 70’s’s with the Braz Gonsalves 7 Pam was gracious, charming and full of sparkle and wit. She made a tremendous effort to help document her part of the Story of Indian Jazz, for us when we filmed in Calcutta in 2010. She was fragile and it was clearly difficult for her to participate. But lights, camera and action,brought back the Diva, after all she was on stage, and she would perform, regardless of pain and other things that got in the way. She was the consumate professional. Pam was full of stories.. we filmed about three hours with Pam.. stories of jazz in Calcutta, and her gigs elsewhere, of club owners, of musicians, of stories of jazz nights that only jazz people can truly believe, of her life , her triumphs , and yes, even paths she took that did had unhappy endings. She was honest.
My lasting memory of her is the compliment she paid after seeing our film .. “You really respected us musicians, thank you for telling all our stories”.. That was Pam, she understood what it took.
Her husband the gracious and gentle Donald Saigal and her talented musical daughter – Sonia Saigal are left with the memories. Our sincere condolences to them and her family of dear ones all over the world Rest in Peace , Ms Crain.. There WIll Never Be Another You
There will be many other nights like this, And I’ll be standing here with someone new. There will be other songs to sing, Another fall…another spring… But there will never be another you.
There will be other lips that I may kiss, But they won’t thrill me, Like yours used to do. Yes, I may dream a million dreams, But how can they come true, If there will never, ever be another you?
(Listen to: There will never be another you– Harry Warren , Mack Gordon)
And here, from Finding Carlton is a tribute to Pam Crain.