There was a time in America that music was divided into popular and race music. But at the very start of the Grammys, the role of Black artists could not be denied. In 1958 the iconic singer Ella Fitzgerald was the first Black artist to win a Grammy.
Dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate, and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and Benny Goodman. (Or rather, some might say all the jazz greats had the pleasure of working with Ella). She performed at top venues all over the world and packed them to the hilt. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions, and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common – they all loved her.
Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Virginia and moved with her family to Yonkers, New York, during what was known as the “The Great Migration” of Blacks moving from the heavily racially segregated South to other states. From an early age, she caught the entertainment bug and would perform for schoolmates and family. She was fortunate to have the Black church choir experience that trained her voice and style. Her mother died after a car accident and her stepfather was reportedly abusive and she began to skip school and perform on street corners in Harlem for money. On Nov. 21, 1934, at the age of 17, she took a chance on her talent at the famous Apollo Theater Amateur Night and won the prize of $25. She was supposed to also be booked for a week at the Apollo but because of her poor appearance and dress, she was not given the offer.
She then began playing gigs around New York City and soon her voice was noticed and the diamond in the rough was cleaned up. In 1938 she co-wrote the hit song “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and received wide acclaim. She was signed to the Decca and later the Verve label and became a well-known voice nationally. During the 1958 Grammy ceremony that year, the jazz singer became the first Black person to win a Grammy. She won two that night for “Best Jazz Performance, Soloist” for “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook” and “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” for “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.”
Jessie Redmon Fauset was a prolific writer and editor during the Harlem Renaissance. Fauset authored essays, novels, and poems, and earned the nickname “the midwife” for helping younger writers. She was considered to be one of the most intelligent female novelists of the Harlem Renaissance.
Jessie Redmon Fauset was born April 27, 1882, in Camden County, Snow Hill Center Township, New Jersey, the seventh child of Redmon and Annie Seamon Fauset. Although the historical record has often disagreed about Fauset’s year of birth—with some sources citing 1884, 1885, 1886, and 1888—Sylvander has verified the 1882 date. Fauset’s mother, Annie Seamon Fauset, died soon after Fauset’s birth. Redmon Fauset, an impoverished African Methodist Episcopal minister, then moved to Philadelphia and married Bella Huff, a widow with three children. They had three more children, including the noted educator and folklorist Arthur Huff Fauset, author of the classical work American Negro Folk Lore. Encouraged by her father to become a teacher, Fauset excelled at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she is reputed to have been the only black student in her class. She graduated as valedictorian.
Despite her outstanding academic record, Fauset was denied admission to Bryn Mawr College, presumably because of its racist admissions policies, although the college was subsequently responsible for her receiving a scholarship to Cornell University. There, Fauset, one of the first black woman students, majored in classical languages and became the first black woman admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated in 1905. She later attended Cornell University and joined Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating from college, she worked as a foreign language teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
Fauset’s second encounter with racism occurred when the city of Philadelphia refused to hire her to teach in the public school system; so Fauset accepted a one-year position at Douglas High School in Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1905-06 school year. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1906, where she taught French and Latin at the M Street High School (renamed the Dunbar School) for the next fourteen years. During the 1918–19 school year, Fauset took a leave of absence to complete an M.A. degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1912, while still teaching French, Fauset began to submit reviews, essays, poems, and short stories to The Crisis, a magazine founded and edited by W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois convinced her to become the publication’s literary editor, a position she took up in 1919.
Fauset’s time at The Crisis is considered to be the most prolific period of the publication’s run. She was responsible for the development of many new African-American voices. She encouraged other influential writers, such as Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Anne Spencer, George Schuyler, and Arna Bontemps to submit their work to the publication.
Fauset became a member of the NAACP and represented them in the Pan African Congress in 1921. After her Congress speech, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority made her an honorary member.
Her first novel, There Is Confusion, featured African-American characters in a middle-class setting. She was also a contributor to the Brownie’s Book, which was published monthly.
After eight years, she decided to resign from The Crisis due to issues between her and Du Bois. She tried to seek work in publishing, but she had no success because of her race. She went back to teaching and later wrote three more novels: Plum Bun, The Chinaberry Tree, and Comedy: American Style.
Una Mae Carlisle, a pianist, and singer during the 1930s and 1940s auditioned for the Cotton Club, performed solo, and recorded in Europe. Born on December 26, 1915, to American Indian and black parents, she started singing at the age of three in her hometown of Xenia, Ohio. By the age of 17, she was working at a local radio station.
Fats Waller heard her play and asked her to join his band. He invited her to play on his radio show at station WLW in Cincinnati during Christmas week when Carlisle turned 17. She was still in high school at the time, and her mother had approved the Christmas vacation in Cincinnati because Carlisle was to stay with her elder sister.
Una Mae Carlisle
When her vacation was over, she refused to return home, becoming a professional musician working with Waller at WLW. Fats’ contract with WLW expired in 1934 and he left Cincinnati for New York. Carlisle’s voice can be heard along with Waller’s on the recording “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.”
When World War II broke out, she returned to America and recorded various songs for Blue Bird Records, including “Walkin’ By The River” and “I See A Million People.” During in the early ’40s, she became popular on the radio; before the decade was out, she had successfully transferred to television.
In between bouts of ill health she played clubs and hotels and appeared on radio shows, including a week-long salute to Fats Waller on WNEW in New York in February of 1945, approximately a year after his death. In the early ’50s, she was still popular, playing with artists such as Don Redman, but her health was failing and she retired in 1954. Her career kept going into the 1950s when she became involved in films and her own radio and television shows. Her last studio session was for Columbia in New York on May 8, 1950. She retired due to her illness in 1954 and died in New York on November 7, 1956. Carlisle sang in a husky, intimate manner, and her warm sensual voice and use of delayed phrasing proved to be as effective on swing numbers as it was on ballads.
Her last studio session was for Columbia in New York on May 8, 1950. She retired due to her illness in 1954. Una Mae Carlisle died two years later in November 1956 in New York City.
sources: Internet Movie Database
Haydée Mercedes Sosa (9 July 1935 – 4 October 2009), sometimes known as La Negra (literally: The Black One), was an Argentine singer who was popular throughout Latin America and many countries outside the region. With her roots in Argentine folk music, Sosa became one of the preeminent exponents of nueva canción. She gave voice to songs written by many Latin American songwriters. Her music made people hail her as the “voice of the voiceless ones”, and “the voice of America”.
Sosa performed in venues such as the Lincoln Center in New York City, the Théâtre Mogador in Paris and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, as well as sell-out shows in New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Roman Colosseum during her final decade of life. Her career spanned four decades and she was the recipient of several Grammy awards and nominations, including a posthumous Latin Grammy award for Best Folk Album. She served as an ambassador for UNICEF.
Sosa was born on 9 July 1935, in San Miguel de Tucumán, in the northwestern Argentine province of Tucumán, of mestizo, Spanish, French, and Diaguita Amerindian ancestry. Her parents were Peronists, although they never registered in the party, and she started her career as a singer for the Peronist Party in Provincia Tucuman under the name Gladys Osorio. In 1950, at age fifteen, she won a singing competition organized by a local radio station and was given a contract to perform for two months. She recorded her first album, La Voz de la Zafra, in 1959. A performance at the 1965 Cosquín National Folklore Festival—where she was introduced and brought to the stage while sitting in the audience by fellow folk singer Jorge Cafrune—brought her to the attention of her native countrypeople.
Sosa and her first husband, Manuel Óscar Matus, with whom she had one son, were key players in the mid-60s nueva canción movement (which was called nuevo cancionero in Argentina). Her second record was Canciones con Fundamento, a collection of Argentine folk songs. In 1967, Sosa toured the United States and Europe with great success. In later years, she performed and recorded extensively, broadening her repertoire to include material from throughout Latin America.
In the early 1970s, Sosa released two concept albums in collaboration with composer Ariel Ramírez and lyricist Félix Luna: Cantata Sudamericana and Mujeres Argentinas (Argentine Women). She also recorded a tribute to Chilean musician Violeta Parra in 1971, including what was to become one of Sosa’s signature songs, Gracias a la Vida. She also increased the popularity of songs written by Milton Nascimento of Brazil and Pablo Milanés and Silvio Rodríguez both from Cuba.
After the military junta of Jorge Videla came to power in 1976, the atmosphere in Argentina grew increasingly oppressive. Sosa faced death threats against both her and her family but refused for many years to leave the country. At a concert in La Plata in 1979, Sosa was searched and arrested on stage, along with all those attending the concert. Their release came about through international intervention. Banned in her own country, she moved to Paris and then to Madrid.
Sosa returned to Argentina from her exile in Europe in 1982, several months before the military regime collapsed as a result of the Falklands War, and gave a series of concerts at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, where she invited many of her younger colleagues to share the stage. A double album of recordings from these performances became an instant best seller. In subsequent years, Sosa continued to tour both in Argentina and abroad, performing in such venues as the Lincoln Center in New York and the Théâtre Mogador in Paris. In a poor condition of health for much of the 1990s, she performed a comeback show in Argentina in 1998. In 1994, she played the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. In 2002, she sold out both Carnegie Hall in New York and the Colosseum in Rome in the same year.
A supporter of Perón, she favored leftist causes throughout her life. She opposed President Carlos Menem, who was in office from 1989 to 1999, and supported the election of Néstor Kirchner, who became president in 2003. Sosa was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a career spanning of four decades, she worked with performers across several genres and generations, folk, opera, pop, rock, including Martha Argerich, Andrea Bocelli, David Broza, Franco Battiato, Jaime Roos, Joan Baez, Francis Cabrel, Gal Costa, Luz Casal, Lila Downs, Lucio Dalla, Maria Farantouri, Lucecita Benitez, Nilda Fernández, Charly Garcia, León Gieco, Gian Marco, Nana Mouskouri, Pablo Milanés, Holly Near, Milton Nascimento, Pata Negra, Fito Páez, Franco De Vita, Lourdes Pérez, Luciano Pavarotti, Silvio Rodríguez, Ismael Serrano, Shakira, Sting, Caetano Veloso, Julieta Venegas and Konstantin Wecker.
Sosa participated in a 1999 production of Ariel Ramírez’s Misa Criolla. Her song Balderrama is featured in the 2008 movie Che, starring Benicio del Toro as the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Sosa was former Co-Chair of Earth Charter International Commission.
She won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Folk Album in 2000 (Misa Criolla), 2003 (Acústico), and 2006 (Corazón Libre), as well as many international awards.
In 1995, Konex Foundation from Argentina granted her the Diamond Konex Award, one of the most prestigious awards in Argentina, as the most important personality in the Popular Music of her country in the last decade.
Her album Cantora 1 won two awards at the Latin Grammy Awards of 2009. She won Best Folk Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. The album was also awarded Best Recording Package.
Suffering from recurrent endocrine and respiratory problems in later years, the 74-year-old Sosa was hospitalized in Buenos Aires on September 18, 2009. She died from multiple organ failure on October 4, 2009, at 5:15 am. She is survived by one son, Fabián Matus, born of her first marriage. He said: “She lived her 74 years to the fullest. She had done practically everything she wanted, she didn’t have any type of barrier or any type of fear that limited her”. The hospital expressed its sympathies with her relations. Her website featured the following: “Her undisputed talent, her honesty and her profound convictions leave a great legacy to future generations”.
Her body was placed on display at the National Congress building in Buenos Aires for the public to pay their respects, and President Fernández de Kirchner ordered three days of national mourning. Thousands had queued by the end of the day. She was cremated on October 5.
Sosa’s obituary in The Daily Telegraph said she was “an unrivaled interpreter of works by her compatriot, the Argentine Atahualpa Yupanqui, and Chile’s Violeta Parra”. Helen Popper of Reuters reported her death by saying she “fought South America’s dictators with her voice and became a giant of contemporary Latin American music”. Sosa received three Latin Grammy nominations for her album, in 2009. She went on to win Best Folk Album about a month after her death.