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March 31, 2008

GoodBye to a Genius

Legendary vocal jazz singer and arranger Gene Puerling passed away this past week at his home in San Anselmo, California just days before his 79th birthday. The GRAMMY-winning performer sang and created almost all the arrangements for the ‘50’s vocal group The Hi-Lo’s and later for the incredibly talented Singers Unlimited - considered by many to be the finest vocal harmony group ever.

Gene was a neighbor of mine living just a few blocks from my home and he was kind enough over the years to be a judge at the Harmony Sweepstakes and to teach workshops at the A Cappella Summit. I have been communicating with Gene for over a decade and he occasionally visited my home – although the stairs became too much for him in recent years. Gene was not in the best of health in the later part of his life but he always stayed busy with family and was often commissioned for vocal arrangements.

The word genius is almost always used when describing Gene and his amazing body of work and I, for one, have always been in complete awe of his talent. I have often sat transfixed listening to some of his more complex arrangements and as a craftsman of the art of blending and harmonizing the human voice he has no equal.

Many of the other great a cappella performers I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years have almost to a person credited Gene for being a primary inspiration to them to pursue their art. It has also been a secret little test of mine to see if a singer really knew their stuff as to whether they knew of him or not. An arrangers’ arranger to be sure but his art was also readily accessible as his success as an arranger of national advertising jingles demonstrated.

He will of course be missed but he can leave us secure in the knowledge that his contribution to the art of vocal arranging will live on for ever. I am very confident that for years to come his music will be studied, rerecorded, enjoyed and will be an inspiration for new generations of vocal harmony singers. Thanks Gene - you really were the best!

More on Gene here.

Listen to a selection of Gene's Hi-Lo's and Singers Unlimited arrangements here.

Posted by acapnews at March 31, 2008 8:55 PM


I agree absolutely with your commment about Gene Puerlling. I know his work since the seventies and for me he always will be the genius of the vocal and the A Capella jazz and pop music. For all reasons, the selection of repertoires, the chords, the arrangements, the fine taste he had in all he did. I really was sorry for this lost.

Marcos D. Hekman

Posted by: MARCOS DAVID HEKMAN at September 30, 2008 3:43 PM

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