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Marilyn Maye News

...unstoppable, unsinkable, unpretentious, unbelievable, unquestionably talented, Marilyn Maye

Today’s column:

  • Marilyn Maye and an invitation to join a conversation with her on Zoom

  • Welcome to new subscribers and an explanation of how we do things around here

  • Future Monday Zoom guest announcement

  • Iowa Writers’ Collaborative Roundup Link


We celebrate what Marilyn has done in the past and also what she is doing today.

Six months after I captured the video clip from Marilyn Maye’s show in Okoboji last year, she was preparing for her first solo performance at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York, held March 24, 2023.

Maye is not only ‘still here’ as she sings in her powerful rendition of the song, but the reviews just in the past year alone are the envy of any singer at the top of their career. Marilyn Maye is still peaking, and the audience is standing and cheering as loud as ever (see links below).

Next month, she returns to Iowa for her 64th season playing to crowds in her beloved Okoboji, on August 1 and 2, at the Pearson Lakes Art Center. As of today, a few seats are left for the August 2nd performance: Click for tickets.

Recent reviews from famed singer Marilyn Maye

Maye isn’t coy about her age. She celebrated her 95th birthday on April 10. That’s right. Ninety-five. Her age is irrelevant yet deeply relevant as a role model to many women rewriting the narrative of aging. If she’s still got it at 95, maybe the rest of us have a subsequent act or two or three or four.

It is startling to hear clips from past performances on the Ed Sullivan or Johnny Carson shows found on YouTube. Carson had her on his show a record-setting 76 times. Her musical accomplishments are countless, and accolades abound from other well-known performers. Ella Fitzgerald was asked to name her favorite singers, and Maye was one of three she cited. The celebrities who count Maye as ‘great’ include Mel Torme and Wynton Marsalis, to name a few.

And, unlike most aging artists who sometimes struggle to hit notes from their anthems of another era, Marilyn Maye can still present her repertoire with the tone and respect they deserve, woven through musical arrangements that feel seamless and extraordinary simultaneously. Included below are links to reviews by respected critics.


When she’s not performing herself to sell-out crowds in New York, she is coaching new singers, one of whom is traveling to Iowa for the first time to hear her mentor interact with Maye’s beloved Okoboji community. Susie Clausen had a career as a real estate agent until she had an epiphany that she wanted to play music. Clausen found a mentor and teacher in Marilyn Maye, who named her Saxy Susie, and she was up and running and performing. In a text exchange, Clausen wrote:

I’ve heard so many stories about Marilyn’s time [in Iowa] I knew I had to experience this wonderful place where she has so much history.

She creates, arranges, and directs all my songs. I recently had my first show at Don’t Tell Mama.

I’m different from her other students because I play the Saxophone. I’m still very new at it. And I never sang a note in my life until Marilyn “made me”!!!

Maye celebrated her 95th birthday year by performing in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, earning 11 standing ovations from a sold-out crowd of 3,000. That night, she learned New York City Mayor Adams had proclaimed March 24 as Marilyn Maye Day.

Don’t tell Marilyn, but during our noon Zoom conversation on Monday, I hope to present a kind of This-Is-Your-Life surprise to her. Journalist and native Iowan Kyle Gibson has connected me with some of Marilyn’s wildly devoted and still-expanding New York posse, including acclaimed singers, composers, critics, and some of Marilyn’s students, whose lives she has changed. (Kyle’s family has been close to Marilyn for nearly seventy years, spanning four generations. And my dad, Des Moines Tribune columnist Gordon Gammack, first discovered the East High School graduate turned singer in the 1960s, updating readers about her career through the years).

With a Zoom featuring participants from Iowa to New York—this will be a conversation with fans and theater experts, all in an informal setting.

I am not a music critic, but we plan to have a few on the call. As an observer of people and their approach to success, Marilyn Maye has a mantra that serves her well, and I’ve witnessed it in action. She isn’t the show's star; the audience is the star.

As for the Iowa angle, we’ll have a few former staffers of Governor Bob Ray on the call. Many think the campaign song Maye created for then-candidate Ray was such a toe-tapping earworm it helped propel him to office.

Marilyn Maye says this could be her last performance in the Lakes area, but I don’t think her fans will stand for it as long as she’s kicking, literally and figuratively.

There are still tickets remaining for what should be a sell-out second show. BUY NOW


Our Zoom call is Monday, July 24, at noon Central/1 p.m. Eastern time. Here is your link: A Conversation with Marilyn Maye!


More about Marilyn Maye:

The New York Times, The Unsinkable Marilyn Maye, By Melissa Errico.3/15/2023

The Times Square Chronicles: American Popular Song Society is Honoring Marilyn Maye, By Magda Katz April 18, 2023

Theater Pizzazz: Marilyn Maye Triumphs at Carnegie Hall, by Marilyn Lester, March 28, 2023

Theater Pizzazz: Marilyn Maye Leaves Her Audience Breathless: Once Again, by Sandi Durell 6/23/2018

American Popular Song Society Benefit, honoring Marilyn Maye. Sandi Durell produced the event on June 12, 2023.

Marilyn Maye stands on the stage of Carnegie Hall. A friend made notecards from this candid photo.

Welcome to our new subscribers!

We’ve had an influx of newcomers to this column in the past week, so let me say a bit about how we do things around here.

First, if you were pulled in because of something about politics I wrote and are wondering why I’m writing about a cabaret singer, please know this is precisely why I named the column Julie Gammack’s Potluck. There will be a little bit of this and that in this platform, focusing on topics of interest to Iowans.

I’m a former talk radio host and newspaper columnist who has fun using the podcast feature and Zoom technology to engage readers in conversations with notable folks. My Zoom guest on July 31 is Neil Hamilton, author of a just-released book titled: The River Knows: How Water and Land Can Shape Our Future. Subscribers will receive a link to the conversation.

A subscription to this column is free; however, if you feel guilty about reading free content (good for you!) and would like to become a paid subscriber, please know those funds go to support emerging writers who want to attend the Okoboji Writers’ Retreat, September 17, 18, 19 and 20. I’m on a mission to encourage people to tell their stories. We are in our third year of holding this retreat, and it is gratifying to see how it impacts attendees' lives. Some have published essays, books, columns, letters to the editor and made new friends. Writers, editors, and publishers come from around the country to participate.

Check it out: OKOBOJI WRITERS’ RETREAT. Come! There is a story in everyone. Let us help you tell it.



I’m thrilled to be a founding Iowa Writers’ Collaborative member. We are a group of professional writers who have come together to address the decline in the availability of commentary in legacy newspapers. We have 35 writers whose columns appear in a weekly roundup published via Substack on Sundays. Discover those columnists you like, subscribe to them individually so you see it as soon as it is published, or read the whole group weekly. Here is last Sunday’s roundup.

Iowa Writers Collaborative
Finding religion at a Taylor Swift concert?
Read more

Our current roster includes our newest columnist Jeff Morrison and his Between Two Rivers.

Iowa Writers’ Collaborative Columnists

Laura Belin: Iowa Politics with Laura Belin, Windsor Heights
Doug Burns: The Iowa Mercury, Carroll
Dave Busiek: Dave Busiek on Media, Des Moines
Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, Roundup
Steph Copley: It Was Never a Dress, Johnston
Art Cullen: Art Cullen’s Notebook, Storm Lake
Suzanna de Baca: Dispatches from the Heartland, Huxley
Debra Engle: A Whole New World, Madison County
Julie Gammack: Julie Gammack’s Iowa Potluck, Des Moines and Okoboji
Joe Geha: Fern and Joe, Ames
Jody Gifford: Benign Inspiration, West Des Moines
Rob Gray: Rob Gray’s Area, Ankeny
Nik Heftman: The Seven Times, Los Angeles and Iowa
Beth Hoffman: In the Dirt, Lovilla
Dana James: New Black Iowa, Des Moines
Pat Kinney: View from Cedar Valley, Waterloo
Fern Kupfer: Fern and Joe, Ames
Robert Leonard: Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture, Bussey
Letters from Iowans, Iowa
Tar Macias: Hola Iowa, Iowa
Kurt Meyer: Showing Up, St. Ansgar
Wini Moranville: Wini’s Food Stories, Des Moines
Jeff Morrison: Between Two Rivers, Cedar Rapids
Kyle Munson: Kyle Munson’s Main Street, Des Moines
Jane Nguyen: The Asian Iowan, West Des Moines
John Naughton: My Life, in Color, Des Moines
Chuck Offenburger: Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson and Des Moines
Barry Piatt: Piatt on Politics Behind the Curtain, Washington, D.C.
Dave Price: Dave Price’s Perspective, Des Moines
Macey Spensley: The Midwest Creative, Iowa
Larry Stone: Listening to the Land, Elkader
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Kalona
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices, Kalona
Cheryl Tevis: Unfinished Business, Boone County
Ed Tibbetts: Along the Mississippi, Davenport
Teresa Zilk: Talking Good, Des Moines

The Iowa Writers Collaborative is also proud to ally with Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
Julie Gammack