“You can do anything you want to do, if you know what to do.” Betty Carter
“Because jazz doesn’t make money quickly, a lot of people in power are not encouraging young people to really use the word `jazz.’ For a person who’s been out here as long as I have, they’re pretty much sick of me because I just won’t go away. I’m not going away, see,that’s what probably bothers a lot of people. Betty Carter
Lat week, I introduced The Greatest Ladies of Jazz series and promised that, over the next several Saturdays, I’ll share songs from some of the best female jazz voices we have enjoyed over the years. As I mentioned last week, women have contributed an impressive and diverse body of work to the soulful sounds of Jazz music, and their sounds have influenced many other popular artists. Each week, I’ll share between 8-10 of the greatest female jazz vocalists with you. You may read more on on them on Wikipedia. Today, we meet 10 more jazz divas.
Affectionately called The Grandmother of Jazz, Betty Carter, has thrilled and entertained many with her unique brand of jazz for years. Born Lillie Mae Jones, she worked with the Lionel Hampton Band, created her own record label Bet-Car Records, in 1969, when she couldn’t find a mainstream outlet, and performed all over the world. She won numerous awards including the National Medal of Arts. President Bill Clinton once said, “Hearing her sing ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside‘ makes you want to curl up in front of the fire, even in summertime.”
Abbey Lincoln, was born Anna Marie Wooldridge and was a jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress who was active in the Civil Rights movement through her music. A famous song was “We Insist! — Freedom Now Suite” (1960) with drummer Max Roach, whom Lincoln married from 1962 to 1970. She was also known as Aminata Moseka.
“Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.” Lena Horne
Lena Horne started her career at the legendary Cotton Club at 16, and soon moved to Hollywood to pursue acting. Her political activities got her blacklisted and made her return to singing. Over time, her nightclub act grew and so did her fans. She won a Tony for her one woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and a Grammy at age 79.
Nicknamed “Deedles”, and blinded at birth due to retinopathy of prematurity, Diane Schuur began performing as a child in suburban Seattle, Washington and had her first public show at age 10. She got a break when Stan Getz heard her sing Amazing Grace and invited her to join his band. Over the years, she recorded many albums and won two Grammys. With about 20 albums under her belt, she continues to perform in venues around the country.
“I’ll keep working as long as I live because singing has taken on the feeling of joy that I had when I started, when my only responsibility was to sing well.” Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney was a singer and actress who began her career singing duets on the radio and in big bands with her sister, Betty. She became a solo star and performed with many of the great singers from the 1950s. Rosemary also starred in TV and films and married Jose Ferrer with whom she had five children. Because of depression and drug abuse, she struggled with her career and personal life in the 1960s. In 1977, Bing Crosby invited her to join his 50th anniversary celebrations and her singing career picked up again. Rosemary Clooney wrote two autobiographies chronicling her life and struggles; they remain popular reading today.
Peggy Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom and grew up in poverty in North Dakota. She had her first hit “Why Don’t You Do Right?” with Benny Goodman, and built a successful solo career in jazz and pop music. In a 60-year-long career; acting, singing and songwriting, Peggy received numerous awards. Come back later for more below!