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December 19, 2014

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Lots of songs in her heart

Jingle singer recalls ‘Meow, meow, meow’ cat food tune as ‘so precious’

Meow Mix Commercial

Linda November

When Linda November’s two cats meow, she can tell you what musical key they’re in. (F sharp.)

This says two things about Linda November.

First, that she is obsessed about musical keys. She can tell you the key of her whirring pool pump motor (B flat). She knew her refrigerator wasn’t cooling properly when the compressor hummed E flat instead of G flat. Her hair dryer blows G flat when it’s on low, B when it’s on high.

She assigns a musical key to everything she hears. It drives her to distraction.

November also knows something about a cat’s meow.

She sang “meow” 51 times in a row for the then-Purina Meow Mix TV commercial of a cat pining for turkey, salmon and chicken.

November is a jingles diva. She sang more than 22,000 advertising jingles before retiring in 1997 after 32 years.

Quick, name that sponsor: “I’d like to teach the world to sing,” “We bring good things to life,” “Get a piece of the rock,” “Just for the joy of it,” “the heartbeat of America.”

She can only wonder how many billions of dollars in business her singing has helped generate. “And the funny thing is, I’m one of the few Jewish broads who doesn’t like shopping,” she says.

November and her husband of 12 years — well-known arranger and composer Artie Schroeck — moved to Las Vegas seven years ago from Atlantic City, in search of dry heat.

Their wall of fame includes a handful of advertising industry awards and a host of photos of their friends: Frankie Valli, Barry Manilow, Kenny Loggins, Joe Pesci ...

November, 64, had spent much of her career as a backup singer, valued for her perfect pitch. She sang behind more performers than she can remember, from Frank Sinatra to Jimi Hendrix.

Along the way, November joined the A list of jingles singers. The Purina account alone accounted for 81 commercials — and $350,000 in residuals — since that original early 1970s ad.

So how hard can it be to sing meow meow meow meow?

The day she got that phone call, she knew only that the client was Purina Meow Mix.

“They handed me the music and said, ‘Here, sing it.’ ”

It was nothing but meows, in the key of C. Breathing would be the challenge.

“I thought this was a riot. I said, ‘What is this for?’ They said I’d see it when I was done singing. After the fourth take, everyone was thrilled, and they let me in the control room to see it with the film. I burst into tears because it was so precious.”

So you might assume the life of a jingles singer is all fun and smiles.

Not so. “I am haunted by music, constantly. I am always hearing music. I have no silence in my life. I have never known silence.”

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