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Halbert Barton

was born on 18 June 1937 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the neighborhood of Bélgica, the hotbed of the southern tradition of traditional Puerto Rican bomba, la bomba sureña. The life of “Doña Isa” connected the few thriving family-based bomba communities of the 1940s–1960s to the municipal bombazos of the 2000s. As a girl she used to accompany her mother, Teresa Dávila, and father, Domingo Albizu, to the regional bomba competitions between the communities of Felix Alduén in Mayaguez and William Archevald in Ponce, from the early 1940s to the early 1970s (Lasalle, 2014). These friendly rivalries had an enormous ripple effect on the development of bomba outside the San Juan metro area in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

While Afro Puerto Rican bomba music and dance has suffered marginalization since its inception in early colonial times ...

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Constance Valis Hill

jazz tap dancer, was born Laurence Donald Jackson in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. He was a boy soprano at age twelve, singing with McKinney's Cotton Pickers. When the bandleader Don Redman came to town, he heard Laurence and asked his mother if he could take the boy on the road. She agreed, provided that her son was supplied with a tutor. Touring on the Loew's circuit, Laurence's first time in New York was marked by a visit to the Hoofers Club in Harlem, where he saw the tap dancing of Honi Coles, Raymond Winfield, Roland Holder, and Harold Mablin. Laurence returned home sometime later to a sudden tragedy; both of his parents had died in a fire. “I don't think I ever got used to the idea,” he told Marshall Stearns in Jazz Dance in 1968 They always took such ...

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Sharon Carson

Although she spent most of her adult life living in France and touring the world, Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri. After a difficult childhood, she left home at thirteen, starting her dance career with a vaudeville troupe called the Dixie Steppers. In the early 1920s, she worked in African American theater productions in New York such as Shuffle Along and Chocolate Dandies. In 1925 Baker left for Paris to begin her long international career with companies like Revue Nègre, Folies Bergères, and, later, the Ziegfeld Follies.

As her career evolved, Baker increasingly focused on political concerns. During World War II Baker toured North Africa while providing information to French and British intelligence. Later she used her considerable fame to advance civil rights issues during her frequent visits to the United States. In 1951 the NAACP honored her political work by declaring an official Baker Day ...

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Samuel S. Brylawski

(b St Louis, June 3, 1906; d Paris, April 12, 1975). American singer and actress. She became a professional street musician at the age of 13, and toured with the Dixie Steppers vaudeville troupe. Following her success as end-girl in the chorus line on tour with the musical Shuffle Along (1921), she was featured in its sequel, Chocolate Dandies (1924), and in a New York nightclub revue. In 1925 she moved to Paris to star in La revue nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, in which she indulged in frenzied dancing and exaggerated mimicry; the show concluded with a nude savage dance duet. Baker then appeared in the Folies-Bergère (1925 where she made her entrance clad in three bracelets and a girdle of rhinestone studded bananas Her combination of the erotic and comic made her one of the ...

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Marie-Françoise Christout

Baker was an African-American singer and dancer who became famous in Paris in the 1920s. She made her debut at the age of fourteen at the Booker T. Washington Theater in her home town, and subsequently went on tours. During this time she married first Willie Wells and then William Howard Baker, from whom, despite intervening liaisons and a pretended marriage to Count Pepito Abatino, she was not divorced until 1936. She was engaged in New York for the 1920s musical comedies Shuffle Along and The Chocolate Dandies.

Paris discovered Baker on 20 October 1925 when, with her partner Joe Alex, she appeared as the star of Noble Sissle's La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The subject of much attention, she posed for Paul Colin, Pablo Picasso, Fujita Tsuguharu, Kees van Dongen, Man Ray, Henri Laurens, Alexander Calder and ...

Article

US-born dancer and singer who became a star of the Paris music halls. She began her career as a chorus girl in an African-American revue in Philadelphia and also appeared at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1920s she was hired to work on the New York musical comedies Shuffle Along and The Chocolate Dandies, but her career break came when she went to Paris in 1925 in La Revue nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Paris was charmed; she posed for Picasso and Man Ray; André Levinson called her the black Venus For her debut at the Folies Bergère she wore a belt of bananas and sang Yes We Have No Bananas She subsequently made the French capital her home As one of the first black international stars she performed regularly at the Folies Bergère and the Casino de Paris as well as on numerous ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

For many people, Josephine Baker's name will always evoke a well-known, controversial image: the “Black Venus” naked onstage, except for a string of bananas around her waist, dancing to African drums before her white Parisian audiences. It was this image that first made Baker a star, one whose international fame lasted for five decades. But the picture of the exotic dancer does not fully capture the complexity of the woman who was one of the first black performers to transcend race and appeal to audiences of all colors around the world.

Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Freda Josephine MacDonald the name Baker came from her second husband Her parents were not married her father was a drummer in a local band and her mother a washerwoman rarely had enough money to support Baker and her three younger half siblings At age eight Baker began working as ...

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Patrick O'Connor

Baker, Josephine (03 June 1906–12 April 1975), dancer, singer, and civil rights activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a musician, and Carrie Macdonald. Her parents parted when Josephine was still an infant, and her mother married Arthur Martin, which has led to some confusion about her maiden name. Very little is known about her childhood, except that she was a witness to the East St. Louis riot in 1917. This event was often a feature of her talks in the 1950s and 1960s about racism and the fight for equality, which fostered the oft-repeated assertion that the family was resident in East St. Louis. Before the age of eighteen Josephine had been married twice, first to Willie Wells and then to William Baker, to whom she was married in Camden, New Jersey, in September 1921.

Josephine Baker like many other African ...

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Karen C. Dalton

dancer, singer, and entertainer, was born in the slums of East St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a drummer, who abandoned Baker and her mother after the birth of a second child, and of Carrie McDonald, a onetime entertainer who supported what became a family of four by doing laundry. Poverty, dislocation, and mistreatment permeated Baker's childhood. By the age of eight she was earning her keep and contributing to the family's support by doing domestic labor. By the time Baker was fourteen, she had left home and its discord and drudgery; mastered such popular dances as the Mess Around and the Itch, which sprang up in the black urban centers of the day; briefly married Willie Wells and then divorced him and begun her career in the theater She left East St Louis behind and traveled with the Dixie Steppers on ...

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Kariamu Welsh

Josephine Baker was the first and greatest black dancer to emerge in the genre now called “performance art.” She epitomized through dance what freedom of expression and artistic expression really meant for generations of artists worldwide. Baker was one of the few artists in the world who were acclaimed and awarded for being themselves. Her genius resided in her conception of music, dance, and comedy; she had a musician’s sense of timing, a dancer’s instinct for cutting a phrase, and a comedian’s ability to deliver a punch line even when it was in a song or gesture. Not merely an entertainer, Baker was in every sense of the word an artist, and it was as an artist that she made her mark on the world.

Baker was also a humanitarian who in her own unique and eccentric way tried to live by example She symbolized beauty elegance grace and most ...

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Asli Tekinay

singer and dancer. Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in a poor black neighborhood in Saint Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Carrie MacDonald, was twenty-one years old at the time and worked as a laundry woman. Her father, Eddie Carson a vaudeville drummer left his wife a year after Josephine was born Josephine thus grew up fatherless and in poverty When she was eight years old her mother hired her out to a white woman as a maid From then on Josephine was on her own in life An ambitious and optimistic child she learned to dance in the back streets of Saint Louis She went to the zoo watched kangaroos camels and giraffes and imitated their movements She wanted to be a great dancer and live a glamorous life At the age of twelve she dropped out of school and at thirteen her professional life began ...

Article

A young African American dancer named Josephine Baker and her act, La Revue Nègre (The Negro Revue), took Paris by storm in 1925. Baker described their effect in these words: “When the rage was in New York of colored people, Mr. Siegfied of Ziegfied Follies said: ‘It's getting darker and darker on old Broadway.’ Since La Revue Nègre came to Gai Paree, I'll say, ‘It's getting darker and darker in Paris.’”

Article

Heidi Carolyn Feldman

nicknamed “Champita,” was a violinist, dancer, and singer widely recognized as a leading culture bearer and patriarch of Afro-Peruvian traditions. He was born on 26 November 1933 to Basilio Ballumbrosio (“Don Bacho”) and Isabel Mosquera in the rural Peruvian district of El Carmen, south of Lima on the Peruvian coast. After the abolition of slavery in 1854, El Carmen and surrounding districts in the province of Chincha housed settlements of former black slaves who had worked at nearby plantations, and the region became an enclave of Peru’s relatively small rural black population. One of eleven siblings of mixed African and indigenous descent, Ballumbrosio worked to help his family as a child, gathering firewood for cooking, feeding animals, and watering and picking cotton in the fields. When he grew older, he found employment in housing construction.

At the age of 4 Ballumbrosio nearly drowned in an irrigation ditch but his ...

Article

Freda Scott Giles

dancer, singer, entertainer, and actor, was born John William Sublett in Louisville, Kentucky. His parents’ names are not known. His early childhood was spent in Indianapolis, Indiana, where his family was part of a touring carnival; by the age of seven, John was performing on the stage, participating in amateur contests as a singer. Accounts differ as to when he returned to Louisville and when he met his vaudeville team partner, Ford Lee “Buck” Washington. Some sources list their ages as ten and six, respectively, while others list them as thirteen and nine. The team began working professionally by 1915 as “Buck and Bubbles,” an act combining music and comedy.

They would remain together for nearly forty years originally combining Washington s talents as a pianist with Sublett s as a singer when his voice changed Sublett turned to tap dancing as his primary talent As they developed their act ...

Article

Jane Goldberg

Nicknamed “Bubber,” Bubbles is best known for his original portrayal of Sportin' Life in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935) and as one half of the famous singing-and-dancing comedy act of Buck and Bubbles. The act, which began when the ten-year-old Bubbles teamed with six-year-old Ford Lee (“Buck”) Washington, lasted almost fifty years. The two were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of1931 and were the first black artists to appear at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

Known as the father of rhythm Bubbles influenced an entire generation of dancers during tap dancing s innovative period of the 1920s and 1930s He made tap a jazz form when he created new accents by the drop of his heels introducing gradations of tone and complex syncopations Tap dancers previously had tended to stay on their toes when Bubbles experimented with turns and heel drops he changed the ...

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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.

Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...

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Melinda Bond Shreve

actress, singer, and dancer, was born Vivian Alferetta Dandridge in Cleveland, Ohio. Affectionately called “Vivi” by her family, she was the oldest daughter of the minister and mechanic Cyril and the actress Ruby Jean Butler Dandridge. She is perhaps best known for being the sister of the accomplished actress Dorothy Dandridge, the first black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Lead Actress; however, Vivian was an accomplished performer in her own right. Her mother separated from her father a year after she was born, leaving the family home on East 103rd Street in Cleveland. With little contact with their father, the girls were raised by Ruby and her friend Geneva Williams, also known as “Neva.” Although Cyril expressed an interest in his daughters' lives, Ruby apparently sought to distance Cyril from Vivian and Dorothy (Bogle, 44).

Though she was a screen and radio ...

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Rainer E. Lotz

dancer, singer, choreographer, and director, is a person whose origins are the subject of some question. According to the English-born black entertainer Gordon Stretton, Belle Davis “was a mezzo-soprano; tall black girl, native from New Orleans, very beautiful,” but on a 1938 ship passenger list Davis signed in as a Chicagoan born in 1874. On a 1904 emergency passport issued in London she swore, “I was born at Houston, in the State of Texas” in 1872. (Besides this confusion in geography, over the years Davis apparently became younger, on other documents indicating her year of birth as 1873.) Her father was George Davis; the name of her mother is unknown. After an apprenticeship in American minstrelsy, she spent most of her professional career touring Europe from 1901 until 1938 Not only had she performed in front of a movie camera ...

Article

Gregory Adamo

entertainer. One of the first African American superstars, Samuel George Davis Jr. was a tap dancer; film, theater, and television actor; singer; impressionist; and multi-instrument musician. From the 1940s until his death, Davis was a recognizable American entertainer. Truly a child of show business, he was born to vaudevillian parents in Harlem in 1925. He began performing at age three, eventually joining his father in the Will Mastin Trio, a tap dance troupe. He traveled on the vaudeville circuit in its waning days, and his hard work and talent made him the star of the act, eventually leading the trio to appearances on television and in major nightclubs. In 1954 Davis suffered a serious car accident while driving from a gig in Las Vegas to a recording session in Los Angeles He lost an eye as a result After his recovery Davis returned to performing and was ...

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Carolyn L. Quin

Davis, Sammy, Jr. (08 December 1925–16 May 1990), variety performer and entertainer, was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Sammy Davis, Sr., an African-American dancer, and Elvera “Baby” Sanchez, a Puerto Rican chorus girl, both in Will Mastin’s Holiday in Dixieland, a vaudeville troupe. He lived with his paternal grandmother, Rosa B. Davis, whom he called “Mamma.” After his sister was born in 1927, his parents separated.

Davis went on the road at age three with his father, performing with a Will Mastin vaudeville show, known then as an all-colored revue. The group came on between the main acts and served as just another anonymous comedy group to liven up the audience. Davis affectionately referred to Mastin as his uncle. The first show Mastin developed that included Davis was Struttin’ Hannah from Savannah When he was seven he got the billing Silent Sam ...