Music Monday: Happy Birthday, Liza Minnelli! | Los Angeles Public Library
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Music Monday: Happy Birthday, Liza Minnelli!

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Collection Development,
photo and illustration of Liza Minnelli plus text that reads music Monday

On March 12, 1946, Liza Minnelli was born. Minnelli is a singer and actress who has had great success in film, theater, and television.

Minnelli was born into a showbiz family, the daughter of actress/singer Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. She made her first appearance onscreen at the age of three, as a baby held in Garland's arms in the final scenes of In the Good Old Summertime. Minnelli moved to New York at 15, and attended the High School for the Performing Arts. She made her professional stage debut in 1963, in an off-Broadway revival of the 1941 musical Best Foot Forward.

Minnelli's career began in a whirlwind of success. She gave a series of concerts with her mother at the London Palladium and recorded her first studio album in 1964. In 1965, Minnelli made her Broadway debut in Flora the Red Menace, and became the youngest winner ever of the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Flora was written by the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, with whom Minnelli had a long and productive relationship. She returned to Broadway in two more of their shows, The Act in 1977 (winning another Tony Award) and The Rink in 1984.

The team of Minnelli, Kander, and Ebb had their biggest year in 1972, when Minnelli starred in the film version of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. Later that year, Kander and Ebb wrote several songs for Minnelli's Emmy-winning television concert special, Liza With a Z.

Minnelli never found another film role as perfectly suited to her talents as Cabaret, though Arthur was a hit in 1981, and the title song from Martin Scorsese's 1977 musical New York, New York became one of her signature songs (and it, too, was written by Kander and Ebb).

Since the late 1970s, Minnelli has mostly performed in concert tours and nightclubs. Her last appearance in a Broadway musical was in 1997, when she briefly replaced the vacationing Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria; she returned in 1999 with Minnelli on Minnelli, a one-woman show featuring songs from the film musicals her father had directed, and in 2008 with another solo show, Liza's at the Palace.

Her studio recording career, which had mostly been built around traditional pop standards, took an unexpected turn with the 1989 album Results. It was produced by the British synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, who wrote most of the songs, and placed Minnelli's voice in the world of electronic dance-pop. (Though even on this album, Minnelli didn't abandon the theater entirely; her version of Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" was a top ten hit in the UK.) In 2006, Minnelli ventured even further from her usual style, appearing as a guest vocalist with the rock band My Chemical Romance on their song "Mama."

For the last decade, Minnelli has been relatively inactive, giving few public performances, and making occasional cameo appearances in movies and TV shows.

In addition to the albums linked above, more of Minnelli's music is available for streaming or download at Freegal and Hoopla, and on CD; several of her films are available on DVD, including Cabaret, New York, New York, and the TV special Liza With a Z.