Anita O'Day (October 18, 1919 - November 23, 2006) was an American jazz singer.
Born Anita Belle Colton, O'Day was admired for her sense of rhythm and dynamics, and her early big band appearances shattered the traditional image of the "girl singer". Refusing to pander to any female stereotype, O'Day presented herself as a "hip" jazz musician, wearing a band jacket and skirt as opposed to an evening gown. She changed her surname from Colton to O'Day, pig Latin for "dough," slang for money.
O'Day, along with Mel Tormé, is often grouped with the West Coast cool school of jazz. Like Tormé, O'Day had some training in jazz drums (courtesy of her first husband Don Carter); her longest musical collaboration was with John Poole, a skilled jazz drummer who was known for his explosive drum solos. While maintaining a central core of hard swing, O'Day's considerable skills in improvisation of rhythm and melody put her squarely among the pioneers of bebop; indeed, a staple of her live act in the 1950s was a smooth cover of "Four" by Miles Davis.
She cited Martha Raye as the primary influence on her vocal style, although she also expressed admiration for Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday.
O'Day always maintained that the accidental excision of her uvula during a childhood tonsillectomy left her incapable of vibrato, as well as unable to maintain long phrases. That botched operation, she claimed, forced her to develop a more percussive style based on short notes and rhythmic drive. However, when she was in good voice she demonstrated surprising skill at stretching long notes with strong crescendos and a telescoping vibrato, e.g. her stunning live version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, captured in Bert Stern's film ''Jazz on a Summer's Day'' .
Noteworthy is that one can hear on her records that her prominent upper teeth sometimes lead to her articulation of the "B" and the "P" as a "W" (e.g.. Sweet Georgia "Wrown").
O'Day's cool, backbeat-based singing style was strongly influential on many other female singers of the late swing and bebop eras, including June Christy, Chris Connor and even less jazz-oriented performers such as Doris Day.
O'Day's long-term problems with heroin and alcohol addiction and her often erratic behavior related to those problems earned her the nickname "The Jezebel of Jazz".