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On Judy Garland's 100th birthday, Red Wing native pays tribute in concert

Singer Jennifer Grimm will be performing in association with the official Judy Garland Museum at her 100th Birthday Celebration in Grand Rapids Friday.

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Jennifer Grimm was almost quite literally born on the stage.

She grew up in a vaudeville family. Her parents, both singers, toured around the country. At a show in Red Wing, her mother went into labor.

“My dad finished out the show, and my mom went to the Red Wing hospital and I was born at three in the morning after the show,” Grimm said.

Fast forward a few years, Grimm joined the family business. A natural singer, her ­­voice developed with influence from her mother and a few notable others from fairytale films and Hollywood: Ilene Woods, the singing voice of Disney’s storybook princess “Cinderella” in the 1950’s animated film; Peggy Lee’s voice in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”; and Judy Garland, in “Wizard of Oz.”

“There’s a certain huskiness and breathiness that comes with these voices,” Grimm said.

It’s a vocal tone she was attracted to, and one she began to mimic.

Nowadays, the singer lends her husky voice to stages across the Midwest and writes music for stage and television. Her music has been showcased on NBC, Showtime, Hulu, CW, and several other networks. And during the pandemic, she decided to design her first ever tribute show, paying homage to Judy Garland.

“Judy’s voice—Judy’s ability to do the huge showstoppers but also do the very vulnerable, intimate sounds, and be vulnerable emotionally – this is all sort of a perfect fit for me,” she said.

Credit: Jennifer Grimm
Grimm performs Judy Garland tribute show.

Grimm’s 90-minute shows feature seven horns, a rhythm section, plenty of Garland’s hits, and moments where Grimm shares parallels between the two singers’ lives.

“Judy Garland is also born to a vaudeville family and born in Minnesota. I was born in Minnesota,” Grimm said. “There are a lot of fun similarities in early upbringing, and I bring that up in the Judy Garland show. I didn’t have the crazy trajectory into Hollywood, which is fine by me.”

Staying in Minnesota, Grimm says a few audience members who attended some of her first tribute shows reached out to the folks at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and recommended they attend.

“They said they loved it, and they decided to have me and the group perform at the 100th Birthday Celebration,” Grimm said.

Credit: Judy Garland Museum

Friday, Grimm will perform at the official celebration hosted by the Judy Garland Museum. The entire celebration, hosted by the museum, kicked off June 9th and goes through the 11th. Grimm will sing on Friday evening, the 10th, at the celebration dinner event, which takes place at Timberlake Lodge in Grand Rapids.

Grimm said when she was tapped to perform, she was ecstatic.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “There are so many tribute shows that are around, it’s such an honor to be the tribute show that is associated with the museum."

Saturday, Grimm will perform the show at the Aitkin Opera House. She takes the tribute show to various stages across the state about once every month. She says currently, she’s working with the museum to develop a small, historical exhibit that will travel with her show.

“The executive director and curator and I have met a few times and have gone through all the archives, and found pieces that have history, or things from [Garland’s] personal collection,” Grimm said. “We are trying to think of things that will travel well and display well.”

To learn about Grimm’s upcoming shows, including her June 20 performance at Pantages, visit her website.

    

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