Dory Previn – Starlet from the attic gets on bus number four

Dory Previn – cool as folk

Dory Previn was neither starlet nor star, but despite her limited success with a run of albums in the early 70s, her acumen for music leaves an indelible mark. She wrote dozens of insightful songs, which played off religion, sexuality and psychoanalysis, blending show tune and confessional folk. On My Way To Where (1970) contains ‘With My Daddy In The Attic’, which once the lyrics are deciphered owes to a troubled childhood despite upbeat honky-tonk. Previn often managed a dark marriage of the unsettling and the humorous.

Later, she salvaged her defunct musical into an album: Mary C. Brown And The Hollywood Sign (1972). It has ‘Holly Man on Malibu Bus Number Three’ describing a retrospective memory in which a Californian Jesus character marks a small girl’s life as one “destined for pain” – he transfers from bus number three to number four which she discovers as an adult “didn’t run any more”. On the same album, Previn satirizes the film industry asking “Who do ya’ have to fu-u-u-uck to get into a movie?” and “How do you make a virtue of a dice?” in ‘Starlet Starlet On The Screen Who Will Follow Norma Jean?’ Interestingly, Previn is observational and rarely sounds bitter herself, more so her characters do; Previn was a showman, even when being highly introspective – listen to the seamless ‘Taps, Tremors and Time-Steps: One Last Dance for my Father’ on Reflections In A Mud Puddle (1971). Dory Previn was in her forties when she made these albums. She died 14 February, a couple of days after I told a friend I would write to her in appreciation.

  • The Leprechauns Are Upon Me (1958) – as Dory Langdon
  • On My Way To Where (1970)
  • Mythical Kings And Iguanas (1971)
  • Reflections In A Mud Puddle (1971)
  • Mary C. Brown And The Hollywood Sign (1972)
  • Live At Carnegie Hall (1973)
  • Dory Previn (1974)
  • We’re Children Of Coincidence And Harpo Marx (1976)
  • Planet Blue (2002) – digital download
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