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“Eddy or not, disc means war,” headlined the N.Y. Daily News. In 1995, a bicoastal battle loomed between the mayors of New York and Los Angeles over which city should host the Grammy awards. “[New York] has a mayor who thinks all great singing ended with Nelson Eddy…” sneered L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. Not true, cried N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, “It moves on to Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Kiri Te Kanawa.”
Nelson Eddy, the tall, fair-haired baritone from Philadelphia, was used to being in the center of controversies. As a classically trained opera and concert singer, he caused frayed tempers among serious music critics when he decided to augment his fast-tracking recital career with a movie contract. Had he failed to score on the screen, these same critics would have bemoaned Hollywood’s failure to recognize great singing. But Nelson Eddy found success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams – a popularity so overwhelming and enduring that it has threatened to eclipse his real musical achievements. Eventually he appeared in 19 films, made hundreds of recordings (including several million-sellers), gave hundreds of concerts, hosted his own radio show, and made guest appearances on hundreds of others.
Max de Schauensee of the Philadelphia Bulletin typified the somewhat sour-grapes attitude of classical music critics toward an artist who strayed from the traditional path: “Though Nelson Eddy took the easy road and made his fame and fortune in other channels, we who lived in Philadelphia during the late 1920’s will not easily forget that he was a fine opera singer as well.”