Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sept. 1: Ethel Waters died on this day in 1977.

Born in Chester, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1896 to a 13-year-old mother, Ethel began her career in the 1920s singing blues and later performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts. Although she was considered a blues singer during the pre-1925 period, Waters belonged to the Vaudeville circuit. She introduced many popular standards including "Dinah," "Heebie Jeebies," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Someday, Sweetheart," "Am I Blue?" and "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue."

In 1933, Waters made a satirical all-black film entitled Rufus Jones for President. She went on to star at the Cotton Club, where, according to her autobiography, she "sang 'Stormy Weather' from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated." She took a role in the Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer in 1933, where she was the first black woman in an otherwise white show. At one point, she was the highest paid performer on Broadway.

Her best-known recording was her version of the spiritual, "His Eye is on the Sparrow." She was the second African American ever nominated for an Academy Award.

Ethel Waters' recordings   were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, under a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five yrs old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Ethel died from heart disease.

Press links below to view You Tube videos:
-- "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" (From the 1952 movie "The Member of the Wedding")
-- "Am I Blue" (From the 1929 motion picture "On With the Show.")
-- "Oh Daddy" (1921) 
On With The ShowIncomparable Ethel Waters

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