Joni James is one of my favorite singers. Is she still performing, and did she ever sing a song called Nina Non?
—George B., West Virginia
Yes and yes. The Chicago-born singer, whose prom-queen look and wistful style made Why Don't You Believe Me a huge hit in the early '50s, recently oversaw the remastering and re-release of her songs on CD. She's also performing again. This year marks the 50th anniversary of her start in show business. James, 71, discovered her talent for singing by accident. She'd always loved ballet as a child and took lessons. When she graduated from high school, she turned down a college academic scholarship to take a job with a dance show that was touring Canada. When the show was over, she returned to Chicago and joined a dance troupe there. A friend asked James if she could fill in for her one night at a club where she was singing—and James did, to much applause. She stopped singing in 1964 when her husband, musical director Anthony Acquaviva, fell ill, and she devoted all her time to taking care of him and their two adopted children in Beverly Hills. As he recovered, they enjoyed life as a family together. In the mid-90s, after her husband died, James picked up a project he'd been working on with her recordings. Soon her music was on CD and available in stores and online, and she began performing again.