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Passings: Gogi Grant (1924 - 2016)

Gogi Grant, who topped the charts in 1956 with The Wayward Wind, died on Thursday at the age of 91.

Grant was born Myrtle Arinsberg in Philadelphia on September 20, 1924 and was the oldest of six children to Russian Orthodox parents. At the age of 12, her family moved to Los Angeles where she attended Venice High School.

While she did participate in talent shows and appeared on local TV as a teen, she originally entered the workforce as a car saleswoman. In the early-50's, she was heard at one of the talent showcases and was signed by the MCA talent agency.

In 1952, Myrtle signed with RCA Records and changed her name, first to Audrey Brown then Audrey Grant and, finally, at the urging of RCA executive Dave Kapp, to Gogi Grant. Her first record for the label, Where There's Smoke There's Fire, failed to find buyers as did subsequent releases and Grant made most of her money singing in the New York and Pennsylvania area in the Borscht Belt.

In 1955, she signed with ERA records and had her first breakout hit, Suddenly There's a Valley (1955 / #9), which became the biggest version of the song that also saw recordings by Jo Stafford, Julius LaRosa, the Mills Brothers and Patty Andrews reach the charts at the same time.

The next year, ERA owner Herb Newman remembered a song he had written years before with UCLA classmate Stan Lebousky and brought it to Grant to record. Gogi recorded The Wayward Wind in two takes in May of 1956 and a short five weeks later, the song knocked Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel from the top of the charts. The record stayed number 1 for six weeks and became one of the top selling singles of the year.

The Wayward Wind was Grant's last major charting hit although she made the Billboard Hot 100 three more times, including Wind making it back to number 50 in 1961, but her career as an artist, both in the studio and live, continued. In 1957, she dubbed the singing for Ann Blythe in The Helen Morgan Story. In addition, although not strictly a country singer, she appeared in a number of musical shorts with Eddy Arnold.

Over the next decade, she recorded fifteen albums for a series of labels and appeared three different times on the Academy Awards singing nominated songs. She would leave the music business in 1967, for twenty years, to raise her family before returning to the live circuit.

Grant had two children with husband Robert Rifkind, a daughter, Jeri Brown, and a son, Joshua Beckett.

Here is Grant from 2004 on one of the PBS specials performing her biggest hit.