Edited by Gerald Boerner

    

    
Commentary:

JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumb_[2]Today we look at another six African American women musicians who have made major contributions to the entertainment scene of the 20th century. Many of these individuals are still alive and continue to work for the improvement of the status and experience of Blacks, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these works help to fight for the rights of the Black people in this country from slavery to freedom. Many of them have also participated in both the freedom struggles against the forces of bias, segregation, and relegation to second-class status; the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the legislation of the Great Society have given many of these women the opportunity to serve their people. These women continue to fight for the rich heritage of the African Americans.

Edythe_Turnham_and_Band

This is the second of a four part series that celebrates lives and contributions of these musicians. It is, by necessity, a long document, but it details the lives and representative work of these very talented individuals.

Let us celebrate the lives and works of these women who used their musical talents for the cause of the African American people and the Civil Rights movement. We now will proceed to examine the lives and works of these African American Women in more detail... GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 3768 Words ]
    

    

Quotations Related to Milestones in History — Musicians:

[ http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/musicians.html ]

    

“The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”
— Duke Ellington

“I went through all the musicians in my life who I admire as bright, intelligent, virtuosic players.”
— David Bowie

“A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.”
— Frank Zappa

“The world must be filled with unsuccessful musical careers like mine, and it’s probably a good thing. We don’t need a lot of bad musicians filling the air with unnecessary sounds. Some of the professionals are bad enough.”
— Andy Rooney

“Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.”
— Izaak Walton

“When we came into the studio I became more and more me, making the tracks and choosing the musicians, partly because a great deal of the time during Bridge, Artie wasn’t there.”
— Paul Simon

“But, I would be naive not to recognize the number of musicians who tell me they have been influenced by me and sight me – as well as Alex and Neil – as a musician who has been a positive influence on their playing.”
— Geddy Lee

“I talked to ex-wives of musicians of the ’70s for research. They’re the funniest people in the world, yet there is this sad, beautiful thing in their eyes that says they’ve seen more than they could ever possibly tell you.”
— Kate Hudson

    

Milestones — Unsung Heroes of Black History: Black Women Musicians, Part 2…

    

    
Harlem-Renaissance-Graphic_thumb2The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance.

Historians disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended. The Harlem Renaissance is unofficially recognized to have spanned from about 1919 until the early or mid 1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature", as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, was placed between 1924 (the year that Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance) and 1929 (the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression).

A new way of playing the piano called the Harlem Stride Style was created during the Harlem Renaissance, and helped blur the lines between the poor Negros and socially elite Negros. The traditional jazz band was composed primarily of brass instruments and was considered a symbol of the south, but the piano was considered an instrument of the wealthy. With this instrumental modification to the existing genre, the wealthy blacks now had more access to jazz music. Its popularity soon spread throughout the country and was consequently at an “all time high.” Innovation and liveliness were important characteristics of performers in the beginnings of jazz. Jazz musicians at the time like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Willie "The Lion" Smith were very talented and competitive, and were considered to have laid the foundation for future musicians of their genre.

During this time period, the musical style of blacks was becoming more and more attractive to whites. White novelists, dramatists and composers started to exploit the musical tendencies and themes of African-American in their works. Composers used poems written by African American poets in their songs, and would implement the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of African-American music—such as blues, spirituals, and jazz—into their concert pieces. Negros began to merge with Whites into the classical world of musical composition. The first Negro male to gain wide recognition as a concert artist in both his region and internationally was Roland Hayes. He trained with Arthur Calhoun in Chattanooga, and at Fisk University in Nashville. Later, he studied with Arthur Hubbard in Boston and with George Henshel and Amanda Ira Aldridge in London, England. He began singing in public as a student, and toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911.

*** Our focus here is upon the unsung heroes of this African American experience as they have contributed to the Arts and Literature over the last two hundred years or so. Today, we focus upon those Black Women who have made significant contributions as musicians — singers, song writers, and opera performers. Typically, their contributions have been ignored in favor of the contributions of their male counterparts, such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, "The Lion" Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton. But the dozen women that we feature here have made significant contributions to the body of American Musical scene. For that contribution, we salute them. (Part 2 of 4)
    

    

    

History Channel’s Unsung Heroes:
Black Women Musicians (Part 2)

    
Tina Turner (1939- )

Tina Turner in concert, January 1, 1970. (Photo Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis)

    
tina-turnerTina Turner
(born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939) is an American singer and actress whose career has spanned more than 50 years. She has won numerous awards and her achievements in the rock music genre have led many to call her the "Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll". Turner started out her music career with husband Ike Turner as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Success followed with a string of hits including "River Deep, Mountain High" and the 1971 hit "Proud Mary". With the publication of her autobiography I, Tina (1986), Turner revealed severe instances of spousal abuse against her by Ike Turner prior to their 1976 split and subsequent 1978 divorce. After virtually disappearing from the music scene for several years following her divorce from Ike Turner, she rebuilt her career, launching a string of hits beginning in 1983 with the single "Let’s Stay Together" and the 1984 release of her fifth solo album Private Dancer.

Her musical career led to film roles, beginning with a prominent role as The Acid Queen in the 1975 film Tommy, and an appearance in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. She starred opposite Mel Gibson as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for which she received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, and her version of the film’s theme, "We Don’t Need Another Hero", was a hit single. She appeared in the 1993 film Last Action Hero.

One of the world’s most popular entertainers, Turner has been called the most successful female rock artist and was named "one of the greatest singers of all time" by Rolling Stone. Her combined album and single sales total approximately 180 million copies worldwide. She has sold more concert tickets than any other solo music performer in history. She is known for her energetic stage presence, powerful vocals, career longevity, and widespread appeal. In 2008, Turner left semi-retirement to embark on her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour. Turner’s tour became one of the highest selling ticketed shows of 2008–2009. Turner was born a Baptist, but converted to Buddhism and credits the spiritual chants with giving her the strength that she needed to get through the rough times. Rolling Stone ranked her at 63 on their 100 greatest artists of all time and considers her the "Queen of Rock and Roll".
    

    
Lena Horne (1917-)

Lena Horne, a singer and actress, her in the film Stormy Weather (1943) included her rendition of the title song, which became her trademark. (Photo Credit: John Springer Collection/Corbis)

    
lena-horneLena Mary Calhoun Horne
(June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010) was an American singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer.

Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood, where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. Due to the Red Scare and her left-leaning political views, Horne found herself blacklisted and unable to get work in Hollywood.

Returning to her roots as a nightclub performer, Horne took part in the March on Washington in August 1963, and continued to work as a performer, both in nightclubs and on television, while releasing well-received record albums. She announced her retirement in March 1980, but the next year starred in a one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway and earned her numerous awards and accolades. She continued recording and performing sporadically into the 1990s, disappearing from the public eye in 2000.

Horne was long involved with the Civil Rights movement. In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and worked with Paul Robeson. During World War II, when entertaining the troops for the USO, she refused to perform "for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen," according to her Kennedy Center biography. Because the U.S. Army refused to allow integrated audiences, she wound up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black U.S. soldiers and white German POWs. Seeing the black soldiers had been forced to sit in the back seats, she walked off the stage to the first row where the black troops were seated and performed with the Germans behind her. She was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. She was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC, and the National Council of Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
    

    
Eartha Kitt (1927–2008)

[Not on History Channel list] Kitt became a vocal advocate for homosexual rights and publicly supported same-sex marriage, which she believed to be a civil right.

    
Eartha Kitt-2Eartha Mae Kitt
(January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was an American singer, actress, and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 hit recordings of "C’est Si Bon" and the enduring Christmas novelty smash "Santa Baby". Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the world.” She took over the role of Catwoman for the third and final season of the 1960s Batman television series, replacing Julie Newmar, who was unavailable due to other commitments.

In 1950, Orson Welles gave Kitt her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his staging of Dr. Faustus. A few years later, she was cast in the revue New Faces of 1952, introducing "Monotonous" and "Bal, Petit Bal", two songs with which she is still identified. In 1954, 20th Century Fox filmed a version of the revue, titled New Faces, in which she performed "Monotonous", "Uska Dara", and "C’est si bon". Though it is often alleged that Welles and Kitt had an affair during her 1957 run in Shinbone Alley, Kitt categorically denied this in a June 2001 interview with George Wayne of Vanity Fair. "I never had sex with Orson Welles", Kitt told Vanity Fair: "It was a working situation and nothing else". Her other films in the 1950s included The Mark of the Hawk (1957), St. Louis Blues (1958) and Anna Lucasta (1959).

Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt recorded; worked in film, television, and nightclubs; and returned to the Broadway stage, in Mrs. Patterson (during the 1954–1955 season), Shinbone Alley (in 1957), and the short-lived Jolly’s Progress (in 1959). In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California. In the late 1960s, the television series Batman featured her as Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.

In 1968, during the administration of US President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. Kitt was invited to the White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot."

During a question and answer session, Kitt stated:

The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons — and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson — we raise children and send them to war.

Her remarks reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Kitt’s career. The public reaction to Kitt’s statements was extreme, both pro and con. Publicly ostracized in the US, she devoted her energies to performances in Europe and Asia. 
    

    
Etta James (1938–2012)

Etta James, well known for her ballad "At Last," continues to perform and won her most recent Grammy Award in 2004. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    
etta-james_thumb2Etta James
(born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) was an American singer. Her style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, gospel and jazz. Starting her career in the mid-1950s, she gained fame with hits such as "Dance With Me, Henry", "At Last", "Tell Mama", and "I’d Rather Go Blind" for which she claimed she wrote the lyrics. She faced a number of personal problems, including drug addiction, before making a musical resurgence in the late 1980s with the album The Seven Year Itch.

James is regarded as having bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll, and is the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008. Rolling Stone ranked James number 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

James was recorded for the Chess subsidiary label Argo (later Cadet) and had her first hit singles under duets with Fuqua including "If I Can’t Have You" and "Spoonful". Her first solo hit was the doo-wop styled rhythm and blues number, "All I Could Do Was Cry", becoming a number two R&B hit. Leonard Chess had envisioned James as a classic ballad stylist who had potential to cross over to the pop charts and soon surrounded the singer with violins and other string instruments. The first string-laden ballad James recorded was "My Dearest Darling", which peaked in the top five of the R&B chart. James was notable singing background vocals on label mate Chuck Berry’s "Back in the USA."

Her debut album, At Last!, was released in late 1960 and was noted for its varied choice in music from jazz standards to blues numbers to doo-wop and rhythm and blues (R&B). The album also included James’ future classic, "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and "A Sunday Kind of Love". In early 1961, James released what was to become her signature song, "At Last", which reached number two on the R&B chart and number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though the song was not as successful as expected, it has become the most remembered version of the song." 
    

    
Odetta (1930–2008)

The folk singer, Odetta (1930-2008), performs at the Berkeley Community Center in 1958. (Photo Credit: Ted Streshinsky/Corbis)

    
odetta_thumb2Odetta Holmes
, (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008) known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement". Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she was influential to many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time included her song, "Take This Hammer", on its list of the All-Time 100 Songs, stating that "Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.”

She made her name by playing around the United States: at the Blue Angel nightclub (New York City), the hungry i (San Francisco), and Tin Angel (San Francisco), where she and Larry Mohr recorded Odetta and Larry in 1954, for Fantasy Records.

A solo career followed, with Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues (1956) and At the Gate of Horn (1957). Odetta Sings Folk Songs was one of 1963’s best-selling folk albums.

In 1959 she appeared on Tonight With Belafonte a nationally televised special. Odetta sang Water Boy and a duet with Belafonte of There’s a Hole in My Bucket.

In 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. anointed her "The Queen of American folk music". Also in 1961 the duo Harry Belafonte and Odetta made #32 in the UK Singles Chart with the song There’s a Hole in My Bucket. Many Americans remember her performance at the 1963 civil rights movement’s march to Washington where she sang "O Freedom.” She considered her involvement in the Civil Rights movement as being "one of the privates in a very big army.”

Broadening her musical scope, Odetta used band arrangements on several albums rather than playing alone, and released music of a more "jazz" style music on albums like Odetta and the Blues (1962) and Odetta (1967). She gave a remarkable performance in 1968 at the Woody Guthrie memorial concert.

Odetta also acted in several films during this period, including Cinerama Holiday (1955), the film of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary (1961) and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974).
    

    
Leontyne Price (1927– )

Leontyne Price, a lyric soprano, performed on Broadway, on television and in opera houses. She was one of the first African Americans to achieve international acclaim on the opera stage. (Photo Credit: Marvin Koner/Corbis)

    
leontyne-price_thumb2Mary Violet Leontyne Price
(born February 10, 1927) is an American soprano. Born and raised in the Deep South, she rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.

One critic characterized Price’s voice as "vibrant", "soaring" and "a Price beyond pearls", as well as "genuinely buttery, carefully produced but firmly under control", with phrases that "took on a seductive sinuousness." Time magazine called her voice "Rich, supple and shining, it was in its prime capable of effortlessly soaring from a smoky mezzo to the pure soprano gold of a perfectly spun high C.”

A lirico spinto (Italian for "pushed lyric") soprano, she was considered especially well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her voice ranged from A-flat below middle C to the E above high C. (She said she reached F "in the shower.")

After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts for another 12 years.

Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, 13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.
    

    

The paragraphs in italics above were taken from the slide show published by the History Channel (see References). Click HERE to access that slideshow. The photographs of the women are courtesy of Corbis and Getty Images.

    

    

Evolution of African American Music… (4:41)

    

    

Please take time to further explore more about African Americans, Lena Horne, Tina Turner, Eartha Kitt, Etta James, Odetta, Leontyne Price, and Black Women Musicians by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…

    

    

References

    

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: African Americans
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans

Wikipedia: Lena Horne…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Horne

Wikipedia: Tina Turner…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tina_Turner

Wikipedia: Eartha Kitt…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eartha_Kitt

Wikipedia: Etta James…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etta_James

Wikipedia: Odetta…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odetta

Wikipedia: Leontyne Price…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontyne_Price

Wikipedia: Harlem Renaissance…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance

History Channel: Black Women in Art and Literature: Black Women Musicians
http://www.history.com/topics/black-women-in-art-and-literature/photos#black-women-musicians

Brainy Quote: Musicians Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/musicians.html

    

Other Posts on related Topics:

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Civil Rights: Marian Anderson’s Concert at Lincoln Memorial…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=18053

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Josephine Baker…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=8389

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Billy Holiday…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=8987

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Ella Fitzgerald: Wins Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=20875