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Posts Tagged ‘Bessie Smith’

Died On This Date (September 1, 1977) Ethel Waters / Early Jazz Singer

Posted by themusicsover on September 1, 2010

Ethel Waters
October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977

Ethel Waters was a jazz, blues and spiritual vocalist who first came to prominence in the 1920s.  She got her start in the same Atlanta club that featured Bessie Smith who reportedly ask Waters to stay away from singing the blues as to not compete with her.  Later she found a home in theater, making it all the way to the Broadway stage.  She began working in film in the ’30s, even receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in 1949’s Pinky.  She was only the second African American ever nominated for an Academy Award.  Three of her recordings, 1925’s “Dinah,” 1929’s “Am I Blue,” and 1933’s “Stormy Weather” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  Ethal Waters died of heart disease in 1977.  She was 80 years old.

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Ethel Waters

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Died On This Date (July 7, 1993) Mia Zapata / The Gits

Posted by themusicsover on July 7, 2010

Mia Zapata
August 25, 1965 – July 7, 1993

Member of the 27 Club

Mia Zapata was the powerful lead singer of the highly influential Seattle punk band, the Gits.   As a child growing up in Louisville, Zapata was exposed to music by some of the greatest voices in America, Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.  While at a Ohio college during the mid ’80s, Zapata co-founded the Gits.  In 1989, the band moved to Seattle to be closer to what was quickly becoming a scene of like-minded bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney.  The band quickly built a local following partly due the release of a handful of solid singles and their critically acclaimed debut album, Frenching The Bully.   Things appeared to be on the verge of taking off for the band when tragedy struck.  In the early morning hours of July 7, 1993, Zapata left a friend’s apartment to presumably walk or catch a cab home.  She never made it.  Police reports indicate that she was beaten, raped and strangled at approximately 2:15 am, her body left in a “Christ like” pose in the middle of the street.  Her murder would go unsolved for ten years until a DNA match linked a Florida man to the crime.  He was convicted of Mia Zapata’s murder on March 25, 2004

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Frenching the Bully - The Gits

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Died On This Date (July 6, 1971) Louis Armstrong / Jazz Icon

Posted by themusicsover on July 6, 2010

Louis Armstrong
August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971

Nicknamed “Satchmo,” Louis Armstrong was arguably the greatest performer jazz has ever known.  Born into poverty in New Orleans, Armstrong’s young life was as tough as one could imagine – a father who abandoned the family and a mother who was forced to turn to prostitution.  To get away, Armstrong hung out at the local dance halls of the city’s red light district, taking in the music of such greats as Joe “King” Oliver and Bunk Johnson who claimed he taught the young boy how to play the cornet.  He would later take up the more familiar trumpet.  When he became proficient on the cornet, Armstrong got gigs playing on riverboats and in parade brass bands.  It was only a matter of time before Armstrong was playing alongside the likes of Kid Ory, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ella Fitzgerald and future wife, Lil Hardin.  Throughout his career, Armstrong made countless recordings, appeared in film and on television, and made the cover of Time magazine in February of 1949.  But it wasn’t until the world was caught up in Beatlemania, that he released his unlikely 1964 hit, “Hello Dolly.”  The song had the distinct honor of not only making him the oldest artist (63) to reach the #1 slot on the pop charts, but also of knocking the Beatles out of the top slot for the first time in 14 weeks.  Louis Armstrong died shortly after a heart attack at the age of 69.

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Louis Armstrong

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Died On This Date (March 28, 1958) W.C. Handy / Father Of The Blues

Posted by themusicsover on March 28, 2010

William Christopher Handy
November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958

wc-handyW.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama in a log cabin that was built by his grandfather.  By the time he was a teenager he was playing both trumpet and clarinet in a band. He would become a teacher by trade and was soon writing songs that would become blues standards.  His “St. Louis Blues” as recorded by Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong is considered one of the finest songs of the era.  Along with his autobiography, Handy wrote five books on the subject of music, blues and African-American life in the early 20th century.  In 1943, Handy was blinded as a result of a fall from a subway platform.  He passes away  at the age of 84 from pneumonia.  An estimated 25,000 people attended his funeral while an additional 125,000 gathered in nearby streets to pay their respects.

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Died On This Date (December 28, 1952) Fletcher Henderson / Jazz Great

Posted by themusicsover on December 28, 2009

Fletcher Henderson
December 18, 1897 – December 28, 1952

Fletcher Henderson was a respected big band and swing jazz pianist, composer and band leader.  During a career that began in the early ’20s, Henderson lead bands that included the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Sun Ra and Benny Carter.  As a composer, his most famous song was “Gin House Blues,” which found itself recorded by Bessie Smith and Nina Simone among others.  As an arranger, he was responsible for key recordings by Benny Goodman and others.  In 1950, Fletcher Henderson suffered a stroke that left him unable to play the piano.  He passed away two years later.

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