Black History Music Month – 2022 – Jazz
TLSC Radio celebrates Black History Music Month. Read the stories of some of the greatest legends of our time.
Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagain in Philadelphia, PA April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz and swing music singer. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner, Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills.
Holiday won four Grammy Awards, all of them posthumously, for Best Historical Album. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though not in that genre; the website states that “Billie Holiday changed jazz forever”. Several films about her life have been released, most recently The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)
Billie Holiday received several Esquire Magazine awards during her lifetime. Her posthumous awards also include being inducted into the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, and the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame. In 1985, a statue of Billie Holiday was erected in Baltimore; the statue was completed in 1993 with additional panels of images inspired by her seminal song Strange Fruit. In 2019, Chirlane McCray announced that New York City would build a statue honoring Holiday near Queens Borough Hall.
The Billie Holiday Monument is located at Pennsylvania and West Lafayette avenues in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood
By early 1959, Holiday was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Although she had initially stopped drinking on her doctor’s orders, it was not long before she relapsed. By May 1959, she had lost 20 pounds (9.1 kg). Her manager, Joe Glaser, jazz critic Leonard Feather, photojournalist Allan Morrison and the singer’s own friends all tried in vain to persuade her to go to a hospital. On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York for treatment of both liver and heart disease. According to writer and journalist Johann Hari the Federal Bureau of Narcotics under Harry J. Anslinger had been targeting Holiday since at least 1939, when she started to perform “Strange Fruit”. Narcotics police went to her hospital room, claiming they had found heroin in her bedroom. A grand jury was summoned to indict her and she was arrested and handcuffed to her bed and placed under police guard. According to Hari, after 10 days, methadone was discontinued as part of Anslinger’s policy; Hari accused Anslinger of being responsible for her death. On July 15, she received last rites. She died at age 44 at 3:10 a.m. on July 17, 1959, of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the Liver.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life. Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem.
Although a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, in the opinion of Gunther Schuller and Barry Kernfeld, “the most significant composer of the genre”, Ellington himself embraced the phrase “beyond category”, considering it a liberating principle, and referring to his music as part of the more general category of American Music. Ellington was known for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, as well as for his eloquence and charisma. He was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in 1999.
Working as a freelance sign painter from 1917, Ellington began assembling groups to play for dances. In 1919, he met drummer Sonny Greer from New Jersey, who encouraged Ellington’s ambition to become a professional musician. Ellington built his music business through his day job. When a customer asked him to make a sign for a dance or party, he would ask if they had musical entertainment; if not, Ellington would offer to play for the occasion. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State departments, where he made a wide range of contacts.
Numerous memorials have been dedicated to Duke Ellington in cities from New York and Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. In Ellington’s birthplace, Washington, D.C., the Duke Ellington School of the Arts educates talented students who are considering careers in the arts by providing art instruction and academic programs to prepare students for post-secondary education and professional careers. In 1974, the District renamed the Calvert Street Bridge, originally built in 1935, as the Duke Ellington Bridge. Another school is P.S. 004 Duke Ellington in New York.
In 1989, a bronze plaque was attached to the newly named Duke Ellington Building at 2121 Ward Place, NW. In 2012, the new owner of the building commissioned a mural by Aniekan Udofia that appears above the lettering “Duke Ellington”. In 2010 the triangular park, across the street from Duke Ellington’s birth site, at the intersection of New Hampshire and M Streets, NW was named the Duke Ellington Park. Ellington’s residence at 2728 Sherman Avenue, NW, during the years 1919–1922, is marked by a bronze plaque. On February 24, 2009, the United States Mint issued a coin with Duke Ellington on it, making him the first African American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin. Ellington appears on the reverse (tails) side of the District of Columbia quarter. The coin is part of the U.S. Mint’s program honoring the District and the U.S. territories and celebrates Ellington’s birthplace in the District of Columbia. Ellington is depicted on the quarter seated at a piano, sheet music in hand, along with the inscription “Justice for All”, which is the District’s motto. In 1986, a United States commemorative stamp was issued featuring Ellington’s likeness.
Ellington on the Washington, D.C. quarter released in 2009 Ellington lived out his final years in Manhattan, in a townhouse at 333 Riverside Drive near West 106th Street. His sister Ruth, who managed his publishing company, also lived there, and his son Mercer lived next door. After his death, West 106th Street was officially renamed Duke Ellington Boulevard.
A large memorial to Ellington, created by sculptor Robert Graham, was dedicated in 1997 in New York’s Central Park, near Fifth Avenue and 110th Street, an intersection named Duke Ellington Circle. A statue of Ellington at a piano is featured at the entrance to UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. According to UCLA magazine: When UCLA students were entranced by Duke Ellington’s provocative tunes at a Culver City club in 1937, they asked the budding musical great to play a free concert in Royce Hall. ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to ask us!’ Ellington exclaimed. On the day of the concert, Ellington accidentally mixed up the venues and drove to USC instead. He eventually arrived at the UCLA campus and, to apologize for his tardiness, played to the packed crowd for more than four hours. And so, “Sir Duke” and his group played the first-ever jazz performance in a concert venue.
The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival is a nationally renowned annual competition for prestigious high school bands. Started in 1996 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the festival is named after Ellington because of the significant focus that the festival places on his works.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) bon in Newport News, VA was an American jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation, and a “horn- like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
After a tumultuous adolescence, Fitzgerald found stability in musical success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, performing across the country but most often associated with the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Her rendition of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” helped boost both her and Webb to national fame. After taking over the band when Webb died, Fitzgerald left it behind in 1942 to start her solo career. Her manager was Moe Gale, co- founder of the Savoy, until she turned the rest of her career over to Norman Granz, who founded Verve Records to produce new records by Fitzgerald. With Verve she recorded some of her more widely noted works, particularly her interpretations of the Great American Songbook.
While Fitzgerald appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows in the second half of the twentieth century, her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and The Ink Spots were some of her most notable acts outside of her solo career. These partnerships produced some of her best-known songs such as “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Cheek to Cheek”, “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”, and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. In 1993, after a career of nearly 60 years, she gave her last public performance. Three years later, she died at the age of 79 after years of declining health. Her accolades included 14 Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, the NAACP’s inaugural President’s Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 1932, when Fitzgerald was 15 years old, her mother died from injuries sustained in a car accident. Her stepfather took care of her until April 1933 when she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. This seemingly swift change in her circumstances, reinforced by what Fitzgerald biographer Stuart Nicholson describes as rumors of “ill treatment” by her stepfather, leaves him to speculate that Da Silva might have abused her.
Fitzgerald began skipping school, and her grades suffered. She worked as a lookout at a bordello and with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. She never talked publicly about this time in her life. When the authorities caught up with her, she was placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale in the Bronx. When the orphanage proved too crowded, she was moved to the New York Training School for Girls, a state reformatory school in Hudson, New York.
While she seems to have survived during 1933 and 1934 in part from singing on the streets of Harlem, Fitzgerald made her most important debut at the age of 17 on November 21, 1934, in one of the earliest Amateur Nights at the Apollo Theater. She had intended to go on stage and dance, but she was intimidated by a local dance duo called the Edwards Sisters and opted to sing instead. Performing in the style of Connee Boswell, she sang “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection” and won first prize. She won the chance to perform at the Apollo for a week but, seemingly because of her disheveled appearance, the theater never gave her that part of her prize.
In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. She was introduced to drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, who had asked his recently signed singer Charlie Linton to help find him a female singer. Although Webb was “reluctant to sign her…because she was gawky and unkempt, a ‘diamond in the rough,'” he offered her the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University.
Met with approval by both audiences and her fellow musicians, Fitzgerald was asked to join Webb’s orchestra and gained acclaim as part of the group’s performances at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs, including “Love and Kisses” and “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)”. But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, a song she co-wrote, that brought her public acclaim. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” became a major hit on the radio and was also one of the biggest-selling records of the decade
In her most notable screen role, Fitzgerald played the part of singer Maggie Jackson in Jack Webb’s 1955 jazz film Pete Kelly’s Blues. The film costarred Janet Leigh and singer Peggy Lee. Even though she had already worked in the movies (she sang two songs in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film Ride ‘Em Cowboy), she was “delighted” when Norman Granz negotiated the role for her, and, “at the time … considered her role in the Warner Brothers movie the biggest thing ever to have happened to her.” Amid The New York Times pan of the film when it opened in August 1955, the reviewer wrote, “About five minutes (out of ninety-five) suggest the picture this might have been. Take the ingenious prologue … [or] take the fleeting scenes when the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald, allotted a few spoken lines, fills the screen and sound track with her strong mobile features and voice.”
After Pete Kelly’s Blues, she appeared in sporadic movie cameos, in St. Louis Blues (1958) and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960). She made numerous guest appearances on television shows, singing on The Frank Sinatra Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, and alongside other greats Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, and many others. She was also frequently featured on The Ed Sullivan Show. Perhaps her most unusual and intriguing performance was of the “Three Little Maids” song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta The Mikado alongside Joan Sutherland and Dinah Shore on Shore’s weekly variety series in 1963. A performance at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London was filmed and shown on the BBC. Fitzgerald also made a one-off appearance alongside Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey on a 1979 television special honoring Bailey. In 1980, she performed a medley of standards in a duet with Karen Carpenter on the Carpenters’ television special Music, Music, Music.
Fitzgerald also appeared in TV commercials, her most memorable being an ad for Memorex. In the commercials, she sang a note that shattered a glass while being recorded on a Memorex cassette tape. The tape was played back and the recording also broke another glass, asking: “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” She also appeared in a number of commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, singing and scatting to the fast-food chain’s longtime slogan: “We do chicken right!” Her last commercial campaign was for American Express, in which she was photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
Ella Fitzgerald Just One of Those Things is a film about her life including interviews with many famous singers and musicians who worked with her and her son. It was directed by Leslie Woodhead and produced by Reggie Nadelson. It was released in the UK in 2019.
Fitzgerald won 13 Grammy Awards, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. In 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African-American female to win at the inaugural show. Other major awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award (named “Ella” in her honor), Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing, and the UCLA Medal (1987). Across town at the University of Southern California, she received the USC “Magnum Opus” Award, which hangs in the office of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. In 1986, she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Yale University. In 1990, she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Harvard University.
In 2012, Rod Stewart performed a “virtual duet” with Ella Fitzgerald on his Christmas album Merry Christmas, Baby, and his television special of the same name.
There is a bronze sculpture of Fitzgerald in Yonkers, the city in which she grew up, created by American artist Vinnie Bagwell. It is located southeast of the main entrance to the Amtrak/Metro-North Railroad station in front of the city’s old trolley barn. The statue’s location is one of 14 tour stops on the African American Heritage Trail of Westchester County. A bust of Fitzgerald is on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. Ed Dwight created a series of over 70 bronze sculptures at the St. Louis Arch Museum at the request of the National Park Service; the series, “Jazz: An American Art Form”, depicts the evolution of jazz and features various jazz performers, including Fitzgerald.
On January 9, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that Fitzgerald would be honored with her own postage stamp. The stamp was released in April 2007 as part of the Postal Service’s Black Heritage series.
In April 2013, she was featured in Google Doodle, depicting her performing on stage. It celebrated what would have been her 96th birthday. On April 25, 2017, the centenary of her birth, UK’s BBC Radio 2 broadcast three programmes as part of an “Ella at 100” celebration: Ella Fitzgerald Night, introduced by Jamie Cullum; Remembering Ella; introduced by Leo Green; and Ella Fitzgerald – the First Lady of Song, introduced by Petula Clark. In 2019, Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things, a documentary by Leslie Woodhead, was released in the UK. It featured rare footage, radio broadcasts and interviews with Jamie Cullum, Andre Previn, Johnny Mathis, and other musicians, plus a long interview with Fitzgerald’s son, Ray Brown Jr.
Fitzgerald suffered from diabetes for several years of her later life, which had led to numerous complications. In 1985, Fitzgerald was hospitalized briefly for respiratory problems, in 1986 for congestive heart failure, and in 1990 for exhaustion. In March 1990, she appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, with the Count Basie Orchestra for the launch of Jazz FM, plus a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel at which she performed. In 1993, she had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee due to the effects of diabetes. Her eyesight was affected as well.
She died in her home from a stroke on June 15, 1996, at the age of 79. A few hours after her death, the Playboy Jazz Festival was launched at the Hollywood Bowl. In tribute, the marquee read: “Ella We Will Miss You.” Her funeral was private, and she was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, CA.
Joseph Leslie Sample (February 1, 1939 – September 12, 2014) born in Houston, TX was an American keyboardist and composer. He was one of the founding members of The Jazz Crusaders in 1960, the band which, shortening its name, became simply “The Crusaders” in 1971, and he remained a part of the group until its final album in 1991 (not including the 2003 reunion album Rural Renewal).
Beginning in the late 1960s, he enjoyed a successful solo career and guested on many recordings by other performers and groups, including Miles Davis, George Benson, Jimmy Witherspoon, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Anita Baker, and the Supremes. Sample incorporated gospel, blues, jazz, latin, and classical forms into his music.
In high school in the 1950s, Sample teamed up with friends saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer “Stix” Hooper to form a group called the Swingsters. While studying piano at Texas Southern University, Sample met and added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters, which became the Modern Jazz Sextet and the Jazz Crusaders, in emulation of one of the leading progressive jazz bands of the day, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Sample never took a degree from the university; instead, in 1960, he and the Jazz Crusaders made the move from Houston to Los Angeles. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
His survivors included his son, bassist Nicklas Sample (with ex-wife Marianne), who is a member of the Coryell Auger Sample Trio featuring Julian Coryell and Karma Auger. He also left a wife, Yolanda, and three stepsons: Justin, Jamerson III and Jordan Berry.
Sample was Catholic, and supported Catholic charities and churches throughout his life.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), born in Tyron, NC and known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, folk, gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, and pop.
The sixth of eight children born to a poor family, Simone initially aspired to be a concert pianist.With the help of a few supporters in her hometown, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well received audition, which she attributed to racism. In 2003, just days before her death, the Institute awarded her an honorary degree.
To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to “Nina Simone” to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or so-called “cocktail piano”. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in theUnited States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy”. Her musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.
In 1964, Simone changed record distributors from Colpix, an American company, to the Dutch Philips Records, which meant a change in the content of her recordings. She had always included songs in her repertoire that drew on her African-American heritage, such as “Brown Baby” by Oscar Brown and “Zungo” by Michael Olatunji on her album Nina at the Village Gate in 1962. On her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone in Concert (1964), for the first time she addressed racial inequality in the United States in the song “Mississippi Goddam”. This was her response to the June 12, 1963, murder of Medgar Evers and the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four young black girls and partly blinded a fifth. She said that the song was “like throwing ten bullets back at them”, becoming one of many other protest songs written by Simone. The song was released as a single, and it was boycotted in some[ southern states. Promotional copies were smashed by a Carolina radio station and returned to Philips. She later recalled how “Mississippi Goddam” was her “first civil rights song” and that the song came to her “in a rush of fury, hatred and determination”. The song challenged the belief that race relations could change gradually and called for more immediate developments: “me and my people are just about due”. It was a key moment in her path to Civil Rights activism. “Old Jim Crow”, on the same album, addressed the Jim Crow laws. After “Mississippi Goddam”, a civil rights message was the norm in Simone’s recordings and became part of her concerts. As her political activism rose, the rate of release of her music slowed.
Simone in 1969
Simone performed and spoke at civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Like Malcolm X, her neighbor in Mount Vernon, New York, she supported black nationalism and advocated violent revolution rather than Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent approach. She hoped that African Americans could use armed combat to form a separatestate, though she wrote in her autobiography that she and her family regarded all races as equal.
In 1967, Simone moved from Philips to the label RCA Victor. She sang “Backlash Blues” written by her friend, Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes, on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings the Blues (1967). On Silk & Soul (1967), she recorded Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and “Turning Point”. The album ‘Nuff Said! (1968) contained live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair of April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She dedicated the performance to him and sang “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)”, a song written by her bass player, Gene Taylor. In 1969, she performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, immortalized in Questlove’s 2021 documentary Summer of Soul.
Simone and Weldon Irvine turned the unfinished play To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry into a civil rights song of the same name. She credited her friend Hansberry with cultivating her social and political consciousness. She performed the song live on the album Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and renditions of the song have been recorded by Aretha Franklin (on her 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black) and Donny Hathaway. When reflecting on this period, she wrote in her autobiography, “I felt more alive then than I feel now because I was needed, and I could sing something to help my people”.
In an interview for Jet magazine, Simone stated that her controversial song “Mississippi Goddam” harmed her career. She claimed that the music industry punished her by boycotting her records. Hurt and disappointed, Simone left the US in September 1970, flying to Barbados and expecting her husband and manager (Andrew Stroud) to communicate with her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone’s sudden disappearance, and the fact that she had left behind her wedding ring, as an indication of her desire for a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was in charge of Simone’s income.
Simone at a concert in Morlaix, France, May 1982
When Simone returned to the United States, she learned that a warrant had been issued for her arrest for unpaid taxes (unpaid as a protest againsther country’s involvement with the Vietnam War), and returned to Barbados to evade the authorities and prosecution. Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time, and had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. A close friend, singer Miriam Makeba, then persuaded her to go
to Liberia. When Simone relocated, she abandoned her daughter Lisa in Mount Vernon. Lisa eventually reunited with Simone in Liberia, but, according to Lisa, her mother was physically and mentally abusive. The abuse was so unbearable that Lisa became suicidal and she moved back to New York to live with her father Andrew Stroud. Simone recorded her last album for RCA, It Is Finished, in 1974, and did not make another record until 1978, when she was persuaded to go into the recording studio by CTI Records owner Creed Taylor. The result was the album Baltimore, which, while not a commercial success, was fairly well received critically and marked a quiet artistic renaissance in Simone’s recording output. Her choice of material retained its eclecticism, ranging from spiritual songs to Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”. Four years later, Simone recorded Fodder on My Wings on a French label, Studio Davout.
In 1987, Simone scored a huge European hit with the song “My Baby Just Cares for Me”. Recorded by her for the first time in 1958, the song was used in a commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume in Europe, leading to a re- release of the recording. This stormed to number 4 on the UK’s NME singles chart, giving Simone a brief surge in popularity in the UK and in other markets.
In the spring of 1988, Simone moved to Nijmegen in the Netherlands. She bought an apartment next to the Belvoir Hotel with view of the Waalbrug and Ooijpolder, with the help of her friend Gerrit de Bruin, who lived with his family a few corners away and kept an eye on her. The idea was to bring Simone to Nijmegen to relax and get back on track. A daily caretaker, Jackie Hammond from London, was hired for her. She was known for her temper and outbursts of aggression. Unfortunately, the tantrums followed her to Nijmegen. Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a friend of De Bruin, who prescribed Trilafon for her. Despite the miserable illness, it was generally a happy time for Simone in Nijmegen, where she could lead a fairly anonymous life. Only a few recognized her, because most Nijmegen people did not know who she was.Slowly but surely her life started to improve, and she was even able to make money from the Chanel commercial after a legal battle. In 1991 Nina Simone exchanged Nijmegen for the more lively Amsterdam, where she lived for two years with friends and Hammond.
1993–2003: Final years, illness and death
In 1993, Simone settled near Aix-en-Provence in southern France (Bouches-du-Rhône).In the same year, her final album, A Single Woman, was released. She variously contended that she married or had a love affair with a Tunisian around this time, but that their relationship ended because, “His family didn’t want him to move to France, and France didn’t want him because he’s a North African.” During a 1998 performance
in Newark, she announced, “If you’re going to come see me again, you’ve got to come to France, because I am not coming back.” She suffered from breast cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rouet (Bouches-du-Rhône), on April 21, 2003. Her Catholic funeral service at the local parish was attended by singers Miriam Makeba and Patti LaBelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actors Ossie
Davis and Ruby Dee, and hundreds of others. Simone’s ashes were scattered in several African countries. Her daughter Lisa Celeste Stroud is an actress and singer who took the stage name Simone, and who has appeared on Broadway in Aida.
rmstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. His parents were Mary Albert and William Armstrong. Mary Albert was from Boutte, Louisiana, and gave birth at home when she was about sixteen. William Armstrong abandoned the family shortly after. About two years later, they had a daughter, Beatrice “Mama Lucy” Armstrong, who was raised by Albert.
Louis Armstrong was raised by his grandmother until the age of five when he was returned to his mother. He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood known as The Battlefield. At six he attended the Fisk School for Boys, a school that accepted black children in the racially segregated system of New Orleans.
At the age of 6, Armstrong lived with his mother and sister and worked for the Karnoffskys, a family of Lithuanian Jews, at their home. He would help their two sons, Morris and Alex, collect “rags and bones” and deliver coal. In 1969, while recovering from heart and kidney problems at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, Armstrong wrote “Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, LA., the year of 1907” a memoir describing his time working for the Karnofsky family. Armstrong writes about singing “Russian Lullaby” with the Karnofsky family when their baby son David was put to bed and credits the family with teaching him to sing “from the heart.” Curiously, Armstrong quotes lyrics for it that appear to be the same as the “Russian Lullaby,” copyrighted by Irving Berlin in 1927, about twenty years after Armstrong remembered singing it as a child. Gary Zucker, Armstrong’s doctor at Beth Israel hospital in 1969, shared Berlin’s song lyrics with him, and Armstrong quoted them in the memoir. This inaccuracy may simply be because he wrote the memoir over 60 years after the events described.
Regardless, the Karnoffskys treated Armstrong extremely well. Knowing he lived without a father, they fed and nurtured him. In his memoir Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907, he described his discovery that this family was also subject to discrimination by “other white folks” who felt that they were better than Jews: “I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for.” He wrote about what he learned from them: “how to live—real life and determination.” His first musical performance may have been at the side of the Karnoffskys’ junk wagon. To distinguish them from other hawkers, he tried playing a tin horn to attract customers. Morris Karnoffsky gave Armstrong an advance toward the purchase of a cornet from a pawn shop. Armstrong wore a Star of David until the end of his life in memory of this family who had help raise him.
When Armstrong was eleven, he dropped out of school. His mother moved into a one-room house on Perdido Street with him, Lucy, and her common- law husband, Tom Lee, next door to her brother Ike and his two sons. Armstrong joined a quartet of boys who sang in the streets for money. He also got into trouble. Cornetist Bunk Johnson said he taught the eleven-year-old to play by ear at Dago Tony’s honky tonk (In his later years Armstrong credited King Oliver.) He said about his youth, “Every time Iclose my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans … It has given me something to live for.”
Borrowing his stepfather’s gun without permission, he fired a blank into the air and was arrested on December 31, 1912. He spent the night at New Orleans Juvenile Court, then was sentenced the next day to detention at the Colored Waif’s Home. Life at the home was spartan. Mattresses were absent; meals were often little more than bread and molasses. Captain Joseph Jones ran the home like a military camp and used corporal punishment.
Armstrong developed his cornet skills by playing in the band. Peter Davis, who frequently appeared at the home at the request of Captain Jones, became Armstrong’s first teacher and chose him as bandleader. With this band, the thirteen-year-old Armstrong attracted the attention of Kid Ory.
On June 14, 1914, Armstrong was released into the custody of his father and his new stepmother, Gertrude. He lived in this household with two stepbrothers for several months. After Gertrude gave birth to a daughter, and it appeared as if Armstrong’s father never welcomed him, so he returned to his mother, Mary Albert. In her small home, he had to share a bed with his mother and sister. His mother still lived in The Battlefield, leaving him open to old temptations, but he sought work as a musician. He found a job at a dance hall owned by Henry Ponce, who had connections to organized crime. He met the six-foot tall drummer Black Benny, who became his guide and bodyguard. Around the age of fifteen, he pimped for a prostitute named Nootsy, but that relationship failed after she stabbed Armstrong in the shoulder and his mother choked her nearly to death.
He briefly studied shipping management at the local community college, but was forced to quit after being unable to afford the fees.
During the 1920s, Louis Armstrong brought a huge impact during the Harlem Renaissance within the Jazz world. The music he created was an incredible part of his life during the Harlem Renaissance. His impact touched many, including a well-known man during that time named Langston Hughes. Hughes admired Armstrong and acknowledged him as one of the most recognized musicians during the era. Within Hughes’ writings, he created many books which held the central idea of jazz and recognition of Armstrong as one of the most important persons to be part of the newfound love of their culture. The sound of jazz, along with many other musicians such as Armstrong, helped shape Hughes as a writer. Just as the musicians, Hughes wrote his words with jazz.
Armstrong changed jazz during the Harlem Renaissance. Being known as “The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player” during this time, Armstrong continued his legacy and continued a focus on his own vocal career. The popularity he gained brought together many black and white audiences to watch him perform. Emerging as a vocalist Armstrong returned to New York in 1929, where he played in the pit orchestra for the musical Hot Chocolates, an all-black revue written by Andy Razaf and pianist Fats Waller. He also made a cameo appearance as a vocalist, regularly stealing the show with his rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin'”. His version of the song became his biggest selling record to date.
Armstrong started to work at Connie’s Inn in Harlem, chief rival to the Cotton Club, a venue for elaborately staged floor shows, and a front for gangster Dutch Schultz. Armstrong also had considerable success with vocal recordings, including versions of songs composed by his old
friend Hoagy Carmichael. His 1930s recordings took full advantage of the new RCA ribbon microphone, introduced in 1931, which imparted a characteristic warmth to vocals and immediately became an intrinsic part of the ‘crooning’ sound of artists like Bing Crosby. Armstrong’s interpretation of Carmichael’s “Stardust” became one of the most successful versions of this song ever recorded, showcasing Armstrong’s unique vocal sound and style and his innovative approach to singing songs that had already become standards.
Armstrong’s radical re-working of Sidney Arodin and Carmichael’s “Lazy River” (recorded in 1931) encapsulated many features of his groundbreaking approach to melody and phrasing. The song begins with a brief trumpet solo, then the main melody is introduced by sobbing horns, memorably punctuated by Armstrong’s growling interjections at the end of each bar: “Yeah! …”Uh-huh”…”Sure”…”Way down, way down.” In the firstverse, he ignores the notated melody entirely and sings as if playing a trumpet solo, pitching most of the first line on a single note and using strongly syncopated phrasing. In the second stanza he breaks into an almost fully improvised melody, which then evolves into a classic passage of Armstrong “scat singing”.
As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gravelly coloration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated. His scat singing style was enriched by his matchless experience as a trumpet soloist. His resonant, velvety lower-register tone and bubbling cadences on sides such as “Lazy River” exerted a huge influence on younger white singers such as Bing Crosby While selling coal in Storyville, he heard spasm bands, groups that played music out of household objects. He heard the early sounds of jazz from bands that played in brothels and dance halls such as Pete Lala’s, where King Oliver performed.
Armstrong was performing at the Brick House in Gretna, Louisiana, when he met Daisy Parker, a local prostitute. He started the affair as a client. He returned to Gretna on several occasions to visit her. He found the courage to look for her home to see her away from work. It was on this occasion that he found out that she had a common-law husband. Not long after this fiasco, Parker traveled to Armstrong’s home on Perdido Street. They checked into Kid Green’s hotel that evening. On the next day, March 19, 1919, Armstrong and Parker married at City Hall. They adopted a three- year-old boy, Clarence, whose mother, Armstrong’s cousin Flora, had died soon after giving birth. Clarence Armstrong was mentally disabled as the result of a head injury at an early age, and Armstrong spent the rest of his life taking care of him. His marriage to Parker ended when they separated in 1923.
On February 4, 1924, he married Lil Hardin Armstrong, King Oliver’s pianist. She had divorced her first husband a few years earlier. His second wife helped him develop his career, but they separated in 1931 and divorced in 1938. Armstrong then married Alpha Smith. His relationshipwith Alpha began while he was playing at the Vendome during the 1920s and continued long after His marriage to her lasted four years; they divorced in 1942. Louis then married Lucille Wilson, a singer at the Cotton Club in New York, in October 1942; they remained married until his death in 1971.
Armstrong’s marriages never produced any offspring. However, in December 2012, 57-year-old Sharon Preston-Folta claimed to be his daughter from a 1950s affair between Armstrong and Lucille “Sweets” Preston, a dancer at the Cotton Club. In a 1955 letter to his manager, Joe Glaser, Armstrong affirmed his belief that Preston’s newborn baby was his daughter, and ordered Glaser to pay a monthly allowance of $400 ($5,058 in 2021 dollars) to mother and child.
Armstrong had nineteen “Top Ten” records, including “Stardust”, “What a Wonderful World”, “When The Saints Go Marching In”, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, “You Rascal You”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”. “We Have All the Time in the World” was featured on the soundtrack of the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and enjoyed renewed popularity in the UK in 1994 when it featured on a Guinness advertisement. It reached number 3 in the charts on being re-released.
In 1964, Armstrong knocked The Beatles off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Hello, Dolly!”, which gave the 63-year-old performer a U.S. record as the oldest artist to have a number one song. His 1964 song “Bout Time” was later featured in the film Bewitched.
In February 1968, he appeared with Lara Saint Paul on the Italian RAI television channel where he performed “Grassa e Bella”, a track he sang in Italian for the Italian market and C.D.I. label.
In 1968, Armstrong scored one last popular hit in the United Kingdom with “What a Wonderful World”, which topped the British charts for a month. Armstrong appeared on the October 28, 1970, Johnny Cash Show, where he sang Nat King Cole’s hit “Ramblin’ Rose” and joined Cash to re-create his performance backing Jimmie Rodgers on “Blue Yodel No. 9”.Armstrong enjoyed many types of music, from blues to the arrangements of Guy Lombardo, to Latin American folksongs, to classical symphonies and opera. He incorporated influences from all these sources into his performances, sometimes to the bewilderment of fans who wanted him to stay in convenient narrow categories. Armstrong was inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Some of his solos from the 1950s, such as the hard rocking version of “St. Louis Blues” from the WC Handy album, show that the influence went in both directions.
Armstrong appeared in more than a dozen Hollywood films, usually playing a bandleader or musician. His most familiar role was as the bandleader cum narrator in the 1956 musical High Society starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Celeste Holm. He appears throughout the film, also sings the title song as well as performs a duet with Crosby, “Now You Has Jazz”. In 1947, he played himself in the movie New Orleans opposite Billie Holiday, which chronicled the demise of the Storyville district and the ensuing exodus of musicians from New Orleans to Chicago. In the 1959 film The Five Pennies he played himself, sang, and played several classic numbers. With Danny Kaye he performed a duet of “When the Saints Go Marching In” during which Kaye impersonated Armstrong. He had a part in the film alongside James Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story.
Armstrong alongside Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (1969)
In 1937, Armstrong was the first African American to host a nationally broadcast radio show. In 1969, he had a cameo role in Gene Kelly’s film version of Hello, Dolly! as the bandleader Louis. He sang the title song with actress Barbra Streisand. His solo recording of “Hello, Dolly!” is one of his most recognizable performances. He was heard on such radio programs as The Story of Swing (1937) and This Is Jazz (1947), and he also made television appearances, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, including appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, a self-described Armstrong admirer, asserted that a 1952 Louis Armstrong concert at the Théâtre des Champs- Élysées in Paris played a significant role in inspiring him to create the fictional creatures called Cronopios that are the subject of a number ofCortázar’s short stories. Cortázar once called Armstrong himself “Grandísimo Cronopio” (The Great Cronopio).
There is a pivotal scene in Stardust Memories (1980) in which Woody Allen is overwhelmed by a recording of Armstrong’s “Stardust” and experiences a nostalgic epiphany.
Against his doctor’s advice, Armstrong played a two-week engagement in March 1971 at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Empire Room. At the end of it, he was hospitalized for a heart attack. He was released from the hospital in May, and quickly resumed practicing his trumpet playing. Still hoping to get back on the road, Armstrong died of a heart attack in his sleep on July 6, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday. He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his death. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City. His honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. Peggy Lee sang The Lord’s Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and Fred Robbins, a long-time friend, gave the eulogy.
Armstrong was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. Recordings of Armstrong were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old, and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.
Roy Ayers (born September 10, 1940) in Los Angeles, CA is an American funk, soul, and jazz composer, vibraphone player, and music producer. Ayers began his career as a post-bop jazz artist, releasing several albums with Atlantic Records, before his tenure at Polydor
Records beginning in the 1970s, during which he helped pioneer jazz-funk. He is a key figure in the acid jazz movement, and has been dubbed “The Godfather of Neo Soul”. He is best known for his compositions “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, “Searchin”, and “Running Away”. At one time, he was said to have more sampled hits by rappers than any other artist.
He grew up in a musical family, where where his father played trombone and his mother played piano. At the age of five, he was given his first pair of vibraphone mallets by Lionel Hampton.
A documentary, The Roy Ayers Project, featuring Ayers and a number artists who have sampled his music and have been influenced by him and his music, has been in development for a number of years. The Roy Ayers Project has been rebranded as “Roy Ayers Connection”, which highlights Roy Ayers and all the people and things that he is to which he is connected Pharrell Williams cites Roy Ayers as one of his key musical heroes. Ayers is a recipient of the Congress of Racial Equality Lifetime Achievement Award.
Wynton Learson Marsalis (born October 18, 1961) in New Orleans, LA, is an American trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has promoted classical and jazz music, often to young audiences. Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards, and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He is the only musician to win a Grammy Award in both jazz and classical during the same year.
In 1979, he moved to New York City to attend Juilliard. He intended to pursue a career in classical music. In 1980, he toured Europe as a memberof the Art Blakey big band, becoming a member of The Jazz Messengers and remaining with Blakey until 1982. He changed his mind about his career and turned to jazz. He has said that years of playing with Blakey influenced his decision. He recorded for the first time with Blakey and one year later he went on tour with Herbie Hancock. After signing a contract with Columbia, he recorded his first solo album. In 1982, he established a quintet with his brother Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. When Branford and Kenny Kirkland left three years later to record and tour with Sting, Marsalis formed another quartet, this time with Marcus Roberts on piano, Robert Hurst on double bass, and Watts on drums. After a while, the band expanded to include Wessell Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Herlin Riley, Reginald Veal, and Todd Williams. When asked about influences on his playing style, he cites Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Harry Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Parker, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams, Ray Nance, Maurice André, and Adolph Hofner. Other influences include Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and Adolph Herseth. Marsalis has established himself as a lecturer and musical ambassador, speaking and performing on six of the seven continents.
Marsalis is the son of the late jazz musician Ellis Marsalis Jr. (pianist), grandson of Ellis Marsalis Sr., and brother of Branford (saxophonist), Delfeayo (trombonist and producer),
and Jason (drummer). Marsalis’s son, Jasper Armstrong Marsalis, is a music producer known professionally as Slauson Malone.
His Grammy awards include:
Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
Think of One (1983)
Hot House Flowers (1984)
Black Codes (From the Underground) (1985)
Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group