'Moonlight in Vermont' singer was a postwar hitmaker

Vocalist Margaret Whiting, a top hitmaker of the postwar years, died of natural causes Jan. 10 in Englewood, N.J. She was 86.

Whiting grew up in a musical environment: Her father was songwriter Richard Whiting, who penned the standards “Till We Meet Again” and “Japanese Sandman,” and her aunt was ’20s recording artist Margaret Young.

She grew up in Hollywood, where her father wrote for such screen stars as Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby. After Richard Whiting died suddenly in 1938, the young vocalist was mentored by cleffer Johnny Mercer, who made her one of the first signings to his L.A.-based label Capitol Records.

Backed by the bands of Freddie Slack, Billy Butterfield and Paul Weston, bell-voiced contralto Whiting waxed a string of hit platters at Capitol, beginning with “That Old Black Magic” in 1942. She cut her signature “Moonlight in Vermont” the following year and her first real hit “It Might as Well Be Spring” in 1945.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Mercer, reached No. 3 in 1949; “Slipping Around,” cut with country singer Jimmy Wakeley, topped the charts the same year. She cut more than 30 chart singles through 1951, and even toplined an early CBS sitcom, “Those Whiting Girls,” with sister Barbara.

Her days as a hitmaker ended in the rock ‘n’ roll era, but she later recorded standards for Dot, London and MGM. She was a popular figure on the New York cabaret scene from the ’70s on, and performed in 4 Girls 4 with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell and Rose Marie.

She is survived by a daughter.

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