Teaching Students About Julie London

Julie London, a captivating American singer and actress, was an iconic figure of the mid-20th century music scene. Her sultry voice and remarkable performances have left an enduring impact on the world of jazz and popular music. As an educator, imparting knowledge about such a significant cultural figure is crucial to ensuring that today’s students appreciate and understand the contributions of past artists. This article will help guide you in teaching students about Julie London by providing insights into her life, achievements, and legacy.

Early Life and Beginnings

Born as Nancy Gayle Peck on September 26, 1926, Julie London began her career in show business at a very young age. Her family was closely involved with the entertainment industry as her father Jack Peck worked as a song-and-dance man in Vaudeville. Julie’s mother, Josephine Peck, was a former ballerina who became a costume designer for Hollywood productions.

Discussing Julie London’s early life can be an engaging way to introduce students to both the artist herself and the broader context of the times in which she lived. Collaborative activities such as group presentations or role-playing scenarios that require students to research important events from her childhood can lend additional depth to their understanding of her life journey.

Career Highlights

Julie London achieved fame not only as a singer but also as a successful actress. As an educator, it’s essential to touch upon key milestones in both areas while discussing her career. This can help students develop a comprehensive understanding of her numerous accomplishments.

1. Acting Career: London made her film debut at just 19 years old with “Nabonga,” building momentum over subsequent decades and securing many notable roles like “The Great Man” (1956), “Man of the West” (1958), “A Question of Adultery” (1958), and “The Wonderful Country” (1959).

2. Singing Career: Julie London was primarily a jazz singer who transitioned to incorporate elements of popular music. Her breakout song “Cry Me a River” (1955) catapulted her to international stardom, and she went on to release a whopping 32 albums throughout her career.


Julie London’s remarkable career continues to inspire both musicians and actors around the world. By emphasizing her accomplishments, you can instill appreciation in students for the diverse ways in which artists shape the cultural landscape.

Classroom Activities and Projects

To further pique your students’ interest and engagement, you could include activities and projects that delve deeper into Julie London’s life and work:

1. Album analysis: Divide students into groups, with each group examining a specific album from London’s discography. Students can discuss their interpretations of song lyrics, album covers, and promotional material.

2. Interviews and documentaries: Encourage students to watch interviews with Julie London or documentaries about her life to gain insight into her thoughts about her work, influences, and struggles she faced over the years.

3. Concert review writing: Show archival footage of Julie London’s performances, then have students write concert reviews as part of a larger conversation about the impact of live music on listeners.

4. Influence on modern music: Explore how Julie London has influenced current musicians by identifying artists who have cited her as an inspiration or covered her songs.

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