Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Ladies Who Sang the Blues

Those who have gone before us, set the sample of how they overcame, going us the courage to do the same.
They had grace and pose. Class and style, even as they grew older.
They have been none these ladies since:
Miss Pearl Baily. Born March 29, 1918. Died August 17, 1990. A tall, handsome woman, her low, smokey voice always reminded me of my Aunt Lola. Miss. Baily was the lady who  flamed my interest in the Theatre.
Her father Joseph was a minister and her mother was named Ella Mae. Her given name was Pearly Mae but her parents anticipated she would be a boy and when a girl was born she was nicknamed "Dickie". Her brother was entertainer Bill Bailey.
 Miss Bailey spent her early life in Washington DC where she received her early education. She frequently appeared in the Old Howard theatre in downtown Washington. As a young woman she toured the Pennsylvania mining towns as a dancer and later as a singer in Vaudeville. She starred in the film St. Louis Blues opposite Nat King Cole, which was the biography of W.C. Handy. Her greatest theatre role was in the Broadway musical "Hello Dolly".
A very talented woman, Miss Bailey was a composer, singer and songwriter as well as a dancer. I remember her voice as being delicious smooth, dark and deep, like chocolate.

Miss Lena Horn. Born: June 30,1917 in Brooklyn, New York. Died May 9, 2010. Best known for the jazz ballad, "Stormy Weather.

Miss Horn was a pioneer among African-American performers.  Lena Horne's talent and beauty began to cause cracks the race barrier in Hollywood in the 1940s. A smooth singer of blues and jazz ballads, Miss Horne appeared onstage in Harlem when she was just 14 years old. By age 16 she was singing in the famous Cotton Club. Soon she made her way into films, starring in the popular 1943 musicals Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky. In later years she sang in clubs and was a steady presence on TV and radio. Horne's active career spanned six decades, and in 1989 she was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In one episode of the Cosby Show, Lena Horn played herself. Life long fan of Lena Horn, Clare gave her to her husband Cliff, a front front seat to see Miss Horn perform.
Janet Jackson had been picked to play the role of Miss Horn in a 2004 movie. But after Miss Jackson flashed her near naked breast during the half-time show of the Super Bowl, Miss barred Janet from taking the part.

Miss Ethel Waters. Born 31, 1896. Died
 Known as "sweet mama stringbean," Ethel was the child of a teenage rape victim and grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighbouring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time.
"No one raised me, " she once said. "I just ran wild."
Miss Waters not only excel at taking care of after herself, but found a career in singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions, and as a teenager was locally renowned for her "hip shimmy shake".
 In 1917 she made her debut on the black vaudeville circuit. She was billed as "Sweet Mama Stringbean" for her tall, lithe build. Her rendition of "St. Louis Blues", which Waters performed in a softer and subtler style than her rivals, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Beginning with her appearances in Harlem nightclubs in the late 1920s, then on the lucrative "white time" vaudeville circuit, she became one of America's most celebrated and highest-paid entertainers.
 At the Cotton Club, she introduced "Stormy Weather", composed for her by  Harold Arlen. She wrote of her performance, "I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, the story of the wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted".
 Impressed, Irving Berlin Irving wrote "Supper Time", a song about a lynching, for Waters to perform in a  Broadway revue.
Miss Waters became the first African-American star of a national radio show. In middle age, first on  Broadway and then in the movies, she successfully recast herself as a dramatic actress.
I remember Ethel Waters in her later years as the "singing evangelist" for the Billy Graham. In a book written about her life, I learned that Miss Waters was a devoutly religious. well-known for being difficult to get along with. During the years of 1992-to 1997, I was the church librarian for my former church. After reading Miss Water's life story in 1992, I began to feature the stories of black Christians during Black History Month.
Each of these women were trail blazers. Today's actresses and performers have these ladies as well as others who know the walls and made the way for them.

Post a Comment