Open-Ended Autobiography


Arlene Corwin’s Poetry

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Arlene Corwin’s Open-Ended Biography

(10.3.2007 updated 10.24.2007 updated 1.3.2008; updated December 15, 2009, October 2010 )

Arlene Corwin (born Arlene Faith Nover) is an American jazz singer and pianist, poet, teacher and practitioner of Yoga. Born November 8, 1934 in the Williamsburg Maternity Hospital, Brooklyn, New York. She has two children. Jonathan Eric Corwin (born July 24. 1956 and) Jennifer Nover Council (born February 2, 1964). Mother Margy Lillian (born Brown). Father Albert S. Nover. Both were hairdressers, owning a beauty salon together. Everyone was musical on both sides of the family.Mother sang, could play some piano. Father was a gifted sculptor and wood carver, played a little harmonica and mandolin. The family is Jewish.

Early Life
Started studying piano age 8. Studied voice at the famous 1650 Broadway with ‘coach’ Matty Levine. Did a little recording at aged 10 in Nola Studios. (The record has since disappeared) At 12 she started studying harp with Meyer Rosen (Julliard and NBC Orchestra) and the occasional piano lesson with an NBC pianist who taught her how to read chord changes, seeing at once that she was not interested in learning classical piano.

As a child she had already sung at weddings, bar mitzvahs and for the USO, raising bonds for the war effort. At 13, having a boyfriend who played the saxophone and who listened to Symphony Sid, jazz disc jockey whose late night show originated from Birdland, she awakened to jazz, listening to the late night show “under my blanket”. “A turning point”, she says. (Well before “Lullaby of Birdland” was put to words Arlene had written a lyric of her own – a lyric she still sings today) At 14,she was playing for a dancing school once a week. Then she got an accidental job (“slipping in on a banana peel when the singer got sick”) in a Brooklyn nightclub singing with a group. “Mom and dad chaperoned, of course”.1950s 

She began to sing regularly when again, out of the blue, an agent rang offering a job for a hundred dollars a week to play at the Mayflower Hotel in Manhattan. It was a restaurant owned by Bob Olin, a former light heavyweight world champion. “I was so naïve I played the whole evening without ever taking a break. Who knew about breaks? Why they kept me I’ve no idea.” But they did and the steady salary of $100.00 a week (which she gave directly to her mother, any other choice never occurring to her) and the experience of having to make a varied program led to her singing to the piano, and eventually to playing to the singing. At this time she was still in high school as attending the prestigious High School of Music & Art as a harpist.She graduated from Music & Art getting a scholarship to Hofstra College as a music major.

Then in 1952, while still at Hofstra College (now university), she was playing on the weekends in a Hempstead, Long Island nightclub-restaurant when Slim Gaillard, who’d come to see Jack Teagarden (also working there) began to take notice of her. He started showing up regularly. There he met Arlene’s mother Margy, and the two eventually opened a jazz nightclub, the first to cater to blacks and whites. It was called The Turf and it, like Birdland had its own radio show, for which Arlene wrote the theme song “The Slim Gaillard Show”. Now she was standing as well as sitting, getting a chance to sit in and sing as often as she chose. The die was cast. It was jazz, cool jazz.

Early Influences
In 1954, on the day she ought to have been attending her college graduation, she married Bob Corwin, a 21-year-old jazz pianist with the Don Elliot Quartet. Because Bob toured, Arlene began her new stage of education: listening to Don’s group while they played on the same bill as the jazz greats of the 50’s. There was Helen Merrill at George Wein’s Storyville in Boston, Terry Gibbs and Illinois Jacquet in Detroit, Bill Evans, Cy Coleman, Bernard Peiffer, Tal Farlowe,Johnny Smith John Mehagan and Billy Taylor (who had also performed at the Turf) at the sophisticated Composer owned by jazz lover and connoiseur Willie Short in Manhattan. ” It was also a chance to see and listen to other singers of the day. New York was marvelous in those days. I saw Peggy Lee at Basin Street, became friends with Blossom Dearie at Trudy’s in the village, Oscar Peterson, Marian McPartland at the Hickory House, Sheila Jordan, Morgana King. It was THE university for me. I was introduced to and mentored by Tony Fruscella, the tragic, unsung genius of the trumpet, ‘who I took on my gigs, but to whom I was actually the apprentice’ – and through Tony to Morgana King and Beverly Getz, the talented [and equally tragic] wife of Stan Getz. I feel blessed to have experienced jazz at that time. The guys would gossip about who played ‘behind’ or ‘ahead’ of the beat, bass lines, good changes, bad changes. No Music & Art or Hofstra did that. I learned almost the whole of what is now called The American Songbook. And I, I was sounding like Sarah Vaughn with a little voice.”


Hanging Around Manhattan; Not This, Not That…
Living in New York, and looking for a niche she spent time, as other musicians did, at the Musicians Union Local 802 or Charlie’s Tavern where jobs could show up. In this way, there were weeks and weekends away with big bands: Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra under the leadership of Warren Covington, Claude Thornhill and Larry Sonn.

“When you hang around New York all kinds of opportunities show up”. And so, she got a leading role in a B film called “Jukebox Racket’, wrote the score for another B film called, at the time “She Should Have Stayed In Bed”, later to be called ‘1,000 Shapes Of A Female: see IDMB (the company, called Exploit Films was owned by Errol Flynn “tall, big in every way, veins on his face, but exuding old world charm” He was quite, quite overwhelming.”

Then there was a bit part in John Cassavetes “Shadows”, followed by the lead in what has become a cult ‘beat’ musical called “The Nervous Set” by Fran and Jay Landesman where she introduced the now-standards “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most and “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men”, both subsequently recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey and numberless major artists. She studied acting with Joshua Shelley. “It was a time to find out who and what I was. “I was definitely not an actress. I was too introverted and none of those clothes fit” she says.

More Influences and more Not This, Not That…
In 1959 she met Johnny Burke (Burke & Van Heusen) who took her under his wing, taking her to Hollywood to demonstrate his show “Donnybrook” for Rosalind Russell and husband, producer Frederick Brisson “It was a glitzy time. I stayed at Bob Hope’s house in Palm Springs, met Frank Sinatra and his then fiancee Juliet Prowse, Jerry Lewis, Marlene Deitrich, had my own suite in Las Vegas , traveled first class, but was so introverted I always kept to myself, never saying much, definitely not participating in any of these scenes. Those clothes didn’t fit either.”

All the while she returned to the intimacy of New York supper clubs. They were the bottom line, singing and playing.

It was during the supper club period, she met Al Weissman who became her manager. She was signed to the Joe Glazer Agency and began to tour with her own trio. “Wherever I went they’d say, “You know, there’s just been a girl here who sounds like you. Her name was Barbra something. I suppose we had Brooklyn Jewishness in common. ” (She too was signed with Glazer.)

Although published by Frank Publishing (owned by composer Frank Loesser) years later she asked for the songs back because “nothing happened.” “It was a period of promise, a period I was not equipped to fulfill”.

In 1962 it was back to Hollywood with Al Weissman and high hopes. “I had some jobs, but never in my genre.” Back to New York. A little jaunt of songwriting with singer Dick Haymes. A short marriage of four months to Richard Robin Palmer.

Greece, Lebanon, Greece, Oxford – Yoga & Jazz

In 1966, by way of Paris, Greece (where she and husband Jim Council were neighbors with Leonard Cohen and Marianne) and Lebanon, “where I actually managed to do some television, singing jazz”, she settled in Oxford, England for the next 18 years, teaching yoga,(“lectured and demonstrated in what must have been a hundred Women’s Insitutes, posed for one of the very first health magazines called Health & Fitness, wrote articles on nutrition, had a weekly radio spot on a little radio show for BBB Oxford actually doing Yoga on radio while describing each pose with a microphone up my nose, did a tape on meditation – it was a lot of Yoga”) and singing and playing, being voted Best Jazz Singer in the Midlands 1972, appearing at Ronnie Scott’s three times. She did 3 television shows; a late night BBC jazz show called “In The Cool Of The Evening”, radio for BBC overseas, was invited over to Amsterdam to do Dutch radio, sang at universities around England, (“one night opposite Pink Floyd, “who were just starting out, I suppose”), the American air bases.

She appeared several times at The Stables in Wavendon (run by John Dankworth – now Sir John Dankworth – and Cleo Laine -now Dame Cleo Laine – while at the same time giving weekly yoga lessons to a group there, (which included Dame Cleo – “a wonderful yogin”). The Wavendon All-Music Plan, later known simply as WAP “was the most stimulating and original enterprise I’ve ever encountered, pairing all kinds of musical genre. I even played on the same bill as Vladimir Ashkenazy.”

Starting in 1969 and all during the 70’s fate gave a push to the yoga side of things and Arlene was teaching yoga classes in doctor’s offices for hyper-tense, cardiac and overweight men. teaching regularly at conferences for IBM. She gave demonstrations, lectured all over for the Women’s Institute, posed and wrote for Health and Fitness Magazine (summer issue 1982) a book called The New Manual Of Yoga by Karen Ross (1973) wrote articles on nutrition, made a cassette called This Is Meditation. It was a full double life with Yoga taking half the time and singing the other half.

1980s to now.
In 1983 she once again ran into Slim Gaillard – this time in London. He asked her to appear on a television show he was producing that was to star himself, Kai Winding and Wayne Shorter. It was the last appearance she ever made in England.In 1984, finding Sweden fertile ground for singer/pianists, and meeting and falling in love with Kent Anderson, she moved to Sweden where she lives until today, performing, and writing regularly for “Live With Good Intentions” an online magazine.
Still growing, still changing
The latest news – 2009 and 25 years later, aged 75: a cd of her own songs for Imogen Records produced by George Reece, a concert of Johnny Mercer to commemorate his 100th birthday, poetry grown to 2000 poems (see Arlene Corwin Poetry).

2009 finds her favorite project on Google called Arlene Corwin’s Poetry, a project that started in 1949 or about 2,000 poems ago.

2010 landmark:  First published book of poetry, “Circling Round Time” comes out in September “To The Child Mystic” the second due to come out in December.

2010-11  Circling Round Time and To The Child Mystic.  The Processes: Creative, Thinking, Meditative . Regular contributor  to online magazines ElderwomanSpace; Jerry Jazz Musician; Elderwomanstorytellingplace; 

2012 More books!  Circling Round Woman; Circling Round Our Times, Our Culture; Circling Round Vanity: Vaguely About Music and Circling Round Eros + 2.  Publised by Xlibris.

2013-2014 More & more! Circling Round Yoga, Science, War & Cats; Circling Round Nature; God Book; in the works A Sense Of The Ridiculous.

Music career took an upswing with performances and concerts – an intimate series of composer-of-the-month programs based on the best of American popular composers.

And, of all things, at age 77, the start of yoga teaching in Härryda, Sweden.  

Arlene Corwin is, as at this writing, 80 years of age. Over 3,000 poems.

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A Walk Through The Cemetery 1991

             A Walk through The Cemetery

Who grieves at all, his loved one gone,

Who grieves his heart away at dawn;

A child dead, a brother killed,

Mother dying, wife’s thoughts stilled:

For those who live, left to despair

I dare to say, from God-knows-where,

No ‘them’ is there.

Be of good cheer. There’s no them here.

The them is gone, is flown, dissolved –

Dissolved and flown; is done, done, done.

As for what’s under that great lawn –

Who cares for rotten skin and bone?

Not I (if there is even ‘I’).

This so-called ‘I’ would rather fly

Than spend the walk in cry, cry, cry –

For crying is a kind of lying…

To and down.

Lying to unworthy ego,

Lying down when one should run.

Absence – let’s examine absence:

Sediment of sentiments;

Guilt, nostalgia; where is love?

Is it one of the above?

Any, all? A thing at all?

None of the above is love.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Heart can often pull you under.

Absence ought to make you ponder,

Shake the bedrock self in wonder.

Thinking’s process pulls it sunder;

Feeling puts you back in bed.

When reacting to the dead,

Head is what you need instead:

Head and faith.

Let us discern, let’s separate,

Learn to look at last year’s date,

Disregard the fate that took it.

Last year’s date forms this year’s fate.

Discriminate and over-look. It’s

Attitude that helps to brook it.

Cemetery’s fragrant walk

Was built for time. A chance to talk,

To honor. We are what we are –

(Besides our never-changing souls)

Contingent on contingent lives.

He who is contingent thrives.

Like empty bowls

We drain, are cleaned then filled –

Emptied, cleaned and then re-filled.

Lives that pass through and around

Are lives to which we have been bound.

Interlaced, no one’s escaped.

Lives that shape are also shaped.

When the thing that lives must go,

Gone the thing that shaped also.

Where it’s gone we just don’t know.


is Tao, and Tao is now.Form and absence seem to be

One dry, unfeeling entity

Forming, shaping, living, then

Back to an/the unformed again.

Lose your interest in the pall –

No one’s there at all! At all.

©A Walk through The Cemetery 91.11.5

Birth, Death & In Between; Definitely Didactic;

Arlene Corwin


Stan Getz Is Dead (Take One) 1991

                Stan Getz Is Dead (Take One)

If someone should give you the choice

Of being a world famous voice

And dying at sixty-four.

Would you want more?

If, dying at ninety,

With nothing done

Worthy of note

And an otherwise unfamous throat,

Would you elegize, cry

That the lights passed you by,

That the clang

Of the tang

Of achievement,

Burned up in the flames

Of no-fame and bereavement?

‘Cause ‘Bob’s your uncle’ – you go anyway,


Is the meaning of genius


Making just sixty, a hundred and three?

Or would you choose calm mediocrity?

Maybe one hasn’t a choice.

©Stan Getz Is Dead 91.9.26

Birth, Death & In Between; Vaguely About Music; Special People Special Occasions;

Arlene Corwin





I Live With A Man Who Doesn’t Believe In Reincarnation 1991

       I Live With A Man Who Doesn’t Believe In Reincarnation 

I live with a man

Who doesn’t believe

In reincarnation:

A thoughtful man,

A man with faith,

Whose feet are planted

On the earth;

Whose doll-blue eyes

Can fill with tears;

Who slays each cell

Of sloth and fears;

Who goes inside himself with ease

And see the way a seer sees.

Yet, he can’t get into his head

The concept that though body’s dead

It leaves its energy intact

To carry on in life and fact,

Each failure past to rise again –

Rehearsal’s fate, it tries again

To reach a self from God-knows-when.

He understands cause and effect,

Accepts an absolute as being

And a Being absolute.

Yet, there is something in his seeing

That his being can’t detect.

Is it gene with some defect

That cleans away what can be seen

By those of us who have the gene?

The notion’s light as day to me;

We’re born to reproduce, to sluice

Into eternity.

Whey can’t it reach his intellect

And teach the gene to un-defect,

Speed up his fate, and mine as well?

I can’t, can I?

Can’t change what is, what has to be,

What’s destined from a time pre-pre.

I’d love to clout that lout of doubt

To cancel out the gout of doubt,

To tout a truth I know exists.

Yet reason says: “Be still!

Behave as if you have free will!

And even though you have no choice,

Behave as if you have a voice,

Cause that’s the choice you have.





I live With A Man Who Doesn’t Believe In Reincarnation 91.10.30

I Could Observe Others 1991

                 I Could Observe Others

I could observe others

With comments about

Other faults, other weaknesses, spouting

Approval of those I would ape.

Talk is escape.

Comment gives grievance.

Developing weaknesses I must combat;

One suffers at that.

(I’ve enough weakness-in-plural within

Without the additional load of more sin.)

The other, the othersI’d want as my peers –

If I had my ‘druthers’,

I’d be like those seers.

But wanting’s not doing,

Not snatching at, wooing.

Doing’s to take in the jewels I see

And jewel by jewel, graft jewel to me.

Doing’s the suture that sews up the future.

I could observe others…

But don’t.

©I Could Observe Others 91.9.9

I Is Always You Is We;

Arlene Corwin






How Do You Come To Grips With Age? 1991

              How Do You Come To Grips With Age?

How to come to grips with age,

Become a sage,

Calm down the rage that lurks within

And screams “stay thin!”

How to examine the truth there

In the strand of graying hair,

Take from the shelf

Those tints that quarrel with the self.

(To dye or not to dye? I buy

The stuff that washes out,

Which shows my wishy-washy doubt:

Evidence of larger fear.)

One clings to ‘then’,

Pushing at troops that nip the rear,

The fear that centers round the face,

This fear of passing-age time’s pace,

This fear that makes me feel a twit,

That makes me hide in wit,

Is representative of it.

And I’m ashamed,

Behaving like a creature maimed.

How do you come to grips with age,

Come out of age’s cage a sage?

Birthdays come and folks will singInsisting.

Yet, within our range,

A change is, after all, just change –

Not more, not less, not good, not bad:

A summary of all one’s had.

Ring out the bells, the dong and ding.

For my advice is not to cling,

But let the chips fall

Where the grips of age begin.

©How Do You Come To Grips With Age? 91.10.21

Circling Round Woman; I Is Always You Is We; Birth, Death & In Between; Circling Round Wrinkles;

Arlene Corwin




From The Expression Life Is A Bitch 1991

                 From The Expression Life Is A Bitch

Money is a bitch.

It doesn’t make you rich.

It lures the poor. It fools the flesh.

It makes us sweaty and unfresh.


We never seem to tire

Of a chase that leads to death.

Out of ten pre-destined breaths

Hunting money uses half:

The original gold calf.

Like bitch in heat

Which must secrete its musty odor,

Money keeps us running round,

Ever lost and never found.

It is a bitch and sovereign hound.

©From The Expression Life Is A Bitch 91.2.1

Our Times, Our Culture; Definitely Didactic;

Arlene Corwin



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