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Decades after Kansas City launched her career, singer Marilyn Maye is still a 'life force'

Marilyn Maye stares straight ahead. She is in front of a purple curtain. She is wearing a glittery top, red lipstick, and silver earrings.
Courtesy of Marilyn Maye
Marilyn Maye is known as one of the greatest singers of the American Songbook.

At 95 years old, Kansas-born Marilyn Maye said she's singing "better than ever." The iconic performer was a regular fixture in Kansas City for decades, and this weekend she returns to the Folly Theater with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

With a career spanning eight decades, Grammy Award-nominated singer Marilyn Maye has no intention of retiring. In fact, last March she hit a career milestone — a sold out Carnegie Hall solo debut with the New York Pops, just shy of her 95th birthday.

Although her career has taken her all over, she honed her craft here in Kansas City — calling the town home for decades, at times performing five nights a week at the Colony Steakhouse. On Friday and Saturday night, she'll join the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra for "She’s the Talk of the Town" at the Folly Theater.

Michael Feinstein, the founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation, has said Marilyn Maye is “more than an entertainer and a great musician — she is a life force that awakens something in other people.”

Her secret to such a storied career?

"It's attitude and keep moving. You got to keep moving," said Maye. "I have friends say I'll never retire and and it's true. You can't retire you don't do that. I'm singing better than I ever have. I'm doing things these days that surprised me."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Elizabeth Erb is a production intern for KCUR 89.3's Up To Date. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. You can email her at eerb@kcur.org.
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