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The Forgotten JAZZ World By: Tinisha Shaw & Jennifer Nuñez Women of Jazz Women, especially African American women, are often not recognized for their contributions to the jazz.

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The Forgotten JAZZ World

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the forgotten jazz world

The Forgotten JAZZ World

By: Tinisha Shaw & Jennifer Nuñez

women of jazz
Women of Jazz
  • Women, especially African American women, are often not recognized for their contributions to the jazz.
  • As singers, band leaders, instrumentalists, writers, and producers these women were a vital aspect of popularity and legacy of jazz.

The following are examples of the female key note jazz during the early to mid 20th century.

(International Sweethearts of Rhythm)

ella fitzgerald the first lady of song
Ella Fitzgerald“The First Lady of Song”
  • The most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century.
  • Born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25, 1917 and grew up in Yonkers, New York.
  • Her childhood is described as happy. Ella grew up in a mixed neighborhood and was a self-described tomboy.
  • Her mother worked at a laundry mat and as a caterer. Her step-father dug ditches and as a part-time chauffeur.
ella fitzgerald the first lady of song4
Ella Fitzgerald“The First Lady of Song”
  • As a teenager Ella would take the train into Harlem to the Apollo Theater and enter into Amateur Night at the Apollo.
  • By 1934 Ella was able to compete as a dance act but when faced with boos she decided to sing.
  • From then on she began entering every talent show she could find.
ella fitzgerald the first lady of song5
Ella Fitzgerald“The First Lady of Song”
  • In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House.
  • In mid 1936 Ella made her first recording Love and Kisses.
  • By 1938 at the age of 21 Ella had hit number one on the pop charts for 17 weeks and sold one million copies with the album A-Tisket, A-Tasket.
  • After this Ella’s stardom grew.
ella fitzgerald the first lady of song6
Ella Fitzgerald“The First Lady of Song”
  • Ella joined the Philharmonic tour and worked with Louis Armstrong
  • From 1956-1964 she recorded covers for Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gershwin’s, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart.
  • She was a favorite and frequent guest on The Bing Crosby Show, The Dinah Shore Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Tonight Show.
  • By her death at the age of 79 on June 15, 1996 Ella had recorded over 200 albums, won 13 Grammy awards, and sold over 40 million albums.

Just One of Those Things

bessie smith the empress of the blues
Bessie Smith“The Empress of the Blues”
  • Described as the greatest of the classic Blues singers of the 1920s.
  • Also described as a rough, crude, and violent woman who loved her Gin.
  • Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 15 sometime between the years of 1894 and 1900.
  • She made her start as a street musician in Chattanooga until she was discovered by Blues singer Ma Rainey.
bessie smith the empress of the blues8
Bessie Smith“The Empress of the Blues”
  • In 1912 she joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels were she was mentored by Ma Rainey.
  • In 1915 she left the show and joined the T.O.B.A vaudeville circuit (Theatre Owners Booking Association) where she built up a following throughout the south.
  • Her first recording was Down Hearted Blues, in 1923. The record sold more than 750,000 copies in a year.
bessie smith the empress of the blues9
Bessie Smith“The Empress of the Blues”
  • Throughout the 1920s Bessie recorded with many of the great Jazz musicians of that era such as Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Don Redman, and Louis Armstrong.
  • Her record St. Louis Blues with Louis Armstrong was considered one of the finest recordings of the 1920s
  • Bessie Smith became one of the biggest African-American stars of the 1920s with all races.
bessie smith the empress of the blues10
Bessie Smith“The Empress of the Blues”
  • Smith became the highest paid Black entertainer in the country during the 1920s making $1500 a week.
  • However, by 1930 her career had faltered due to changing music tastes, mismanagement, and her heavy drinking.
  • Her last New York appearance was in 1936. On September 27, 1937 she was killed in an automobile accident in Clarksdale, Mississippi traveling to Memphis, Tennessee.
bessie smith the empress of the blues11
Bessie Smith“The Empress of the Blues”
  • Bessie Smith was known for her slow blues ballads.
  • Her voice was described as huge, sweeping, and capable of strength and tenderness.
  • She left behind over 160 recordings and huge legacy.
billie holiday lady day
Billie Holiday“Lady Day”
  • Described as the Greatest Female Jazz Vocalist of all time.
  • Born Eleanora Fagan in 1915 in Baltimore, MD
  • Her childhood was difficult and led to her dropping out of high school and moving in with her mother to Harlem.
  • Desperate for money she auditions to be a singer at a speakeasy.
  • This job leads to many other performances in Harlem clubs.
  • Soon discovered by John Hammond she was given great exposure and worked with many great jazz names such as Duke Ellington and Lester Young.
billie holiday lady day13
Billie Holiday“Lady Day”
  • Established a lifelong relationship with Lester Young "Prez” who coined the nickname “Lady Day.”
  • She began making her first recordings in 1935 with Teddy Wilson.
  • In 1938 she joined Artie Shaw’s band becoming one of the first black singers to be featured in a white orchestra.
    • Due to the Jim Crow Laws in the South “Lady Day” found it difficult to tour the area when she was not given the respect to even enter the venue’s front door.
  • She decided to leave and pursue a solo career.

Fun Fact: She used the name "Billie Holiday" because of her admiration for film star Billie Dove.

billie holiday lady day14
Billie Holiday“Lady Day”
  • In 1939 Strange Fruit was released and jumpstarted her solo career given her not only the respect she deserved, but also created a large fan base.
  • Her career began to take off with the success of slow, melancholy songs of unreciprocated love such as Gloomy Sunday (1941) God Bless the Child and Lover Man (1944).
  • These songs showed off her vocal skills and also revealed the pain that she suffered as her personal life deteriorated.
  • Drugs, Alcohol, Abusive Men, and Cocaine/Heroine all took their tolls on her health and career.
billie holiday lady day15
Billie Holiday“Lady Day”
  • Despite her personal problems “Lady Day” become one of the worlds most famous voices.She successfully broke race lines by being one of the few black artists to perform in all-white and interracial venues.
  • Her influences live on still today through the works of modern jazz vocalists
  • The lyrics from many of her songs revealed and made the “general public” aware of the turmoil and pain that many blacks suffered during the early to mid 20th century.
international sweethearts of rhythm
International Sweethearts of Rhythm
  • All-Girl Band that was active from 1937-1949.
    • This band was unique in that it was both all female as well as a racially integrated group.
    • Black, Asian, Latina, Indian, White, and Puerto Rican women came together and created music that more than held its own
    • Hence the name “International”
    • Admired by their peers, including Count Basie and Louis Armstrong.
international sweethearts of rhythm17
International Sweethearts of Rhythm
  • Very popular among black/interracial audiences but faced a great amount of problems when touring the South.
  • The South caused problems not only for the minority members, but also for the white members.
  • Despite their struggles in dealing with a racist society, people could not overlook the great amount of talent that composed the Sweethearts.
international sweethearts of rhythm18
International Sweethearts of Rhythm
  • The height of their careers came during WWII. As men were off fighting the war people began to focus their attention on women jazz performers who now had the responsibility continuing the development of jazz as well as entertaining the troops abroad.
international sweethearts of rhythm19
International Sweethearts of Rhythm
    • The Sweethearts were so popular that they were invited to take a 6month European tour during WWII.
    • Many of its members became the first women of their race to travel internationally with the USO.
  • Women, especially African American women contributed a great deal to the creation, development, and continuation of Jazz.
  • They did so under the roles of vocalists, instrumentalists, band leaders, conductors, and much more.
  • All songs taken from The Smithsonian Collections of Classic Jazz. Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 1997.
  • Dahl, Linda. Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. ML82 .D3 1984
  • O’Meally, Robert. Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday. De Capo Press, 2000. ML420.H58 O4 1991
  • Tucker, Sherrie. Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. ML82 .T83 2000
  • Tucker, Sherrie. “Nobody's Sweethearts: Gender, Race, Jazz, and the Darlings of Rhythm.” American Music, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Autumn, 1998), pp. 255-288. Online via JSTOR. (25 August 2005).
  • Tucker, Sherrie. PBS – Jazz a Film by Ken Burns: Jazz in Time – Women in Jazz. <> (25 August 2005).