BY STEVE ROTHAUS
Life’s not always been kind to Diane Schuur, arguably the world’s leading jazz vocalist of the 1980s.
Blinded at premature birth. Coping as early teen with her mom’s death at age 31. An early love affair that still moves her to tears. Drug, alcohol and weight problems. A hot career that went “cool” in the early ’90s.
But Deedles, as her mother nicknamed her, is back with a soon-to-be-released album (I Remember You, a salute to mentors Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz) and a South Florida Jazz concert date Saturday night at Nova Southeastern University’s Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center in Davie.
“The first four tracks talk about that giddy feeling of love. I’m kind of talking about how it went on a personal level for me. It’s not just singing it and putting it into the universe. These are things I’ve actually experienced in my own life,” said Schuur, now 60, divorced and still possessing her Grammy-winning rich voice. “Life experience teaches me that things change. They just change. They don’t necessarily lessen as far as impact, it just changes. On a professional kind of thing, this could be a second time around for me.”
Schuur first performed professionally in 1964 at a Holiday Inn in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington. Someone taped her performance that night of idol Dinah Washington’s September in the Rain, a recording Schuur released commercially on her 2008 album, Some Other Time.
As a child at the Washington State School For the Blind, Schuur felt alone. “Music was a lifeline for me. I used to get away from the kids and go into a closet and sing my heart out,” she says. “I took Braille music for a few years. Most of the stuff I do now is by ear.”
Jazz producers Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen signed Schuur to their new GRP label around 1984. She had huge hits with the albums Timeless (1986) and Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra (1987), winning consecutive Grammy awards for Best Jazz Vocalist Performance — Female.
Schuur breaks down while talking about one song from the Timeless album, A Time For Love.
“It was a very tender place in my life. I was deeply in love with someone at the time I sang that. I’m starting to cry. I don’t even know why,” she says. “I guess it’s OK. If the emotions come up, they come up.”
At the peak of Schuur’s career, Nutrisystem signed her as a spokeswoman. She lost more than 70 pounds in seven months.
” “Unfortunately, I didn’t know that those diets, they really don’t work,” says Schuur, who eventually regained the weight. “I don’t want to pop anybody’s balloon as far as the diet industry, but like the song says, it was just one of those things.”
About 1990, Schuur stopped drinking and drugging. “I’ve been sober for almost 24½ years now,” she says.
“I don’t regret anything in my life that I’ve gone through, but it certainly was a learning curve,” she says. “I’m glamorous in a way now, but it’s a different kind of a deal. I don’t think I want to put my body through that again. For me, going up and down in weight would be very dangerous. I just try to eat sensibly and do my four-mile walk.
“It’s about self acceptance, it’s about not worrying so much about body image. Shoot, look at somebody like Adele. She’s not a size 2. I want to be known of course for the voice and everything, but I also want to be known as somebody who’s down to earth. Who loves to laugh and doesn’t try to take life too seriously.”
IF YOU GO
Diane Schuur performs 8 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Nova Southeastern University’s Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center in Davie. Tickets $40; $15 students.